Monday, 7 August 2017

Knights of the Frozen Throne - Card Review 7

Knights of the Frozen Throne

Card Review - Part 7

On with the card reviews of Knights of the Frozen Throne!

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

Today we're going to look at the smattering of neutral and class cards that have been released since my previous reviews, including a couple more death knight Hero cards. The expansion is going live on Thursday, the 10th of August!

Rating the Cards

Each card is going to be rated for Constructed play in both Standard and Wild formats (meaning it will get two ratings if applicable).

Ideally, I'm going to rate a card on how viable I believe it will be in each format, and also how fun it is to play.

The different ratings are as follows:
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 - Like its namesake, this is a card that can lose you the game outright when you play it.

Neutral Cards

A handful of new neutral cards have been released.

Aww... it's making a
snow val'kyr!

I'm guessing these workers
are set for more than five years
on the chain gang...

It's a drake made of bones.
What you see is what you get.

The Happy Ghoul joins the Hearthstone cute brigade, alongside the Snowflipper Penguin, Spawn of N'Zoth, and - the brigade's undisputed leader - the Murloc Tinyfin. I'm just guessing that this is a ghoul that has escaped the control of the Lich King. Anyway, if you pay full price for it, it's not very worthwhile, but as we've seen with Dread Corsair, a discounted card can often be pretty high-value at the point you play it. Priest is an obvious choice for this card: if you have one or two of these in your hand on turn two, you could trade into a minion with your Northshire Cleric, heal the Cleric, and then dump the Happy Ghoul(s) onto the board for a big increase in tempo and hard-to-deal-with board at that stage in the game. Happy Ghoul is probably a Fair card.

The Saronite Chain Gang is like a version of Feral Spirit that everyone can get. For 1 more Mana than Feral Spirit, you get the same number of minions with the same stats, and without the Overload. Two 2/3 Taunt minions is better than, say, the Infested Tauren, except in the face of a board clear. Also, being 4-Mana minions, shaman decks running Evolve can potentially get a lot of mileage out of them. This is another Fair card.

The Bone Drake adds some more Dragon synergy to Knights of the Frozen Throne. It's not the best body for its Mana cost, but you're pretty likely to get good value out of its Deathrattle. In Standard, the only minion you'd hate to see appear is the Faerie Dragon. The Deathrattle has the disadvantage of putting the generated Dragon into your hand, but if you're playing a Dragon deck that needs Dragons in hand to empower your cards' Battlecries, that's not such a bad thing. I don't know that a N'Zoth Dragon deck is a thing, but if it is, this card would be really solid in it. It's really slow, though, so I don't think this can get better than a Fair rating.

"Caster" Class Cards

Next up, we're going to look at class cards (excluding death knight Hero cards) for several so-called "caster" classes - specifically, druid, mage, priest, and warlock.

Oh, what a tangled web we
weave, when first we call upon
the necrotic powers of the

What is this fraud?!
There's nary a Zerg in sight!

When this dranei enters the
room, you can feel the
temperature drop. Literally.

It's great that she's "leaning in".

He's a jerk. Just a total

Webweave is a spell with a pretty hefty cost for what you get out it. By way of comparison, Spreading Plague has the same Mana cost, but has the potential to generate up to seven 1/5 Taunt minions, where Webweave generates two 1/2 Poisonous minions. Poisonous is a great effect, but hardly anyone ever has a Poisonous minion in their deck due to their incredible fragility. (The Stubborn Gastropod, which happens to match Webweave's generated tokens' stats but also has Taunt, is an occasional exception). Most value from Poison comes from the cards that grant it to minions, usually through the Un'Goro Adapt mechanic. The basic problem is that, unless you've ramped up your Mana, by the time you're playing this card, your opponent is pretty likely to have a board clear that can remove the tokens immediately, or some combination of weapon charges and/or minions it doesn't mind losing to trade into them (and if you're playing a "Ramp" deck, do you really want to be playing this?). The bottom line is that 5 Mana is just too much for this card. It wasn't particularly great to begin with, but its cost puts it solidly, at least in my view, in the Terrible category.

By contrast, the Druid of the Swarm provides much better value at 2 Mana. Its Poison option is, strictly speaking, worse than the Stubborn Gastropod, but it makes up for it by having the option of being played as a 1/5 Taunt minion. In order to really be worthwhile, you need to buff it, whether with a mass buff spell or with Mark of Y'Shaarj, but in a matchup against aggressive decks (save Pirate Warrior), you can play it on curve and feel pretty good about it. Its cheap cost and flexibility put it solidly in Good territory.

Breath of Sindragosa is a really Mana-efficient spell, dealing 2 damage and Freezing an enemy for only 1 Mana. The drawback is that the target is random. It's not the worst thing in the world, since you may often find that you don't really care which minion it Freezes so long as it does so, or you can manipulate the board state to Freeze a specific minion. It partners well with a big board clear such as Flamestrike to eliminate or Freeze anything that survived the clear, or with Coldwraith - for 4 Mana, you get a 3/4 minion, draw a card, deal 2 damage and Freeze an enemy, which is good value for Mana. Mage generally has better options for Freeze effects available, though, so I don't really see this as being any better than Fair.

Shadow Essence isn't a particularly great card, in my view. If you're spending 6 Mana, you usually want to make a bigger splash than just generating a 5/5 minion. It's a very niche card, which is only good if the minion it copies has some effect that makes its statline less important. In Wild, you have a couple of 5/5 minions which are already 6 Mana that you could very well have in the deck, such as Emperor Thaurissan or Sylvanas Windrunner. (You could also get Ragnaros, the Firelord.) Any minion whose value comes from its Deathrattle would be decent as well, especially if it's an upgrade on its stats. You'd feel bad getting a Battlecry minion. I could see a niche use for this spell in highlander priest decks in Wild, but that's about it. Frankly, it's probably Poor.

The Despicable Dreadlord has more than an alliterative name, being a slightly over-costed minion for its stats (4/5 normally appears on 4-Mana minions), but with a very solid triggered effect. (It's a bit like a weaker version of Baron Geddon, only affecting the enemy's minions only, which you might consider an improvement as it doesn't hurt your own board.) You could follow up an area-of-effect spell such as Defile, Demonwrath, or Hellfire with this minion in order to polish off a weakened opposing board, or even play it on curve to great effect if your opponent has tokens or damaged minions. A board-flooding deck has to spend extra resources to get rid of this, which is always good. I think it's good enough for a Good rating.

"Martial" Class Cards

Next up, we have some cards belonging to "martial" classes, namely paladin and warrior.

He's a real knave.
Got that "bad boy" vibe
going, though.

It eats souls the way
Cookie Monster devours
Om nom nom nom nom!

Bringing sexy back, am I right?

The Blackguard is an okay body, being 3/9 for 6 Mana, which means it is pretty hardy. It has an interesting effect, dealing damage to enemy minions whenever your hero is healed. At first, I was pretty prepared to rate this card poorly, but between Lifesteal and its other healing options, paladin is pretty suited for getting value from this card. More to the point, its 9 Health means your opponent will have a dickens of a time trying to get rid of it, save for a Transform effect. You could combine this with minions like Chillblade Champion, or with the new paladin death knight, to produce big swings in the board. That being said, I don't think it's quality enough to rate better than Fair.

The Forge of Souls is a card you will want to have if by some mischance you didn't get a Fiery War Axe in your starting hand. It's also got great utility for pulling weapons from your deck, giving you more board control options (or getting you your Blood Razor), and thinning the deck out so that your other card draw options draw into your threats, hard removal, and the like. Even a Pirate deck might use one of these, to get a chance to draw into some of its big weapons in order to buff them. This is, I daresay, a Good card, with the caveat that you'll probably only ever run one of it (two is too many for a Pirate deck, and most other warrior decks don't run enough weapons to make two of these worthwhile).

Rotface is one ugly pile of flesh. It's got ridiculously low stats for its Mana cost. Basically, you would only want to ever play this minion when you can trigger its effect once or twice on your turn, in the hopes of getting some huge tempo and value out of the minions generated. The danger is that you can't guarantee that what you get will be any good: you could get Nat Pagle or an un-buffed Sergeant Sally. The upside is that you could get the likes of Gruul, Ysera, or Tirion Fordring. The potential upside is just good enough, I think, to get this card a Poor rating.

Druid Death Knight

On with the druid death knight Hero card, Malfurion the Pestilent (pleasant sounding, isn't he?).

He's just sickening, really.

Isn't "sick" what the kids
these days are using to call
something superlative?

Compared to some of the other death knights, death knight Malfurion's Battlecry isn't that amazing. But it's also pretty low-cost compared to the other death knights. You'll note that both the spells that generate minions of the sort this card generates cost 5 Mana, so you're basically getting a Hero Power upgrade and 5 Armour for 2 more Mana. Put that way, it's not so bad as far as value goes. The new Hero Power, on the other hand, might well be the best of the lot, providing you with fantastic flexibility. Need to clear something off the board, or push for lethal? Pick +3 Attack, and get swinging. Need to stall out a little longer, or build up Armor against a mage's burn? Pick +3 Armor. Just the Hero Power makes this card pretty good; the rest of what you get brings it over the top into Excellent territory. If you're facing a druid with Fandral Staghelm on the board and either 7 or 9 Mana, unless you have a means to clear the board, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Paladin Death Knight

Finally, we have the paladin death knight Hero card, Uther of the Ebon Blade.

Paladins make the best
death knights, don't they?

Now that's a weapon!

You damn well better
be able to keep paladin
tokens clear.

Death Knight Uther is pretty expensive, being 9 Mana (a fairly awkward Mana cost, it must be said). In exchange, you get what amounts to a 10-point swing in your Health, either a big hit to your opponent's face or a big board swing, and two remaining charges of a weapon that is actually better than Ashbringer. (Of course, any deck in which you would include Uther of the Ebon Blade will include Tirion Fordring, meaning you could very well get both weapons over the course of a game.)

What's more, your upgraded Hero Power puts your opponent on a hard clock: if your opponent can't keep clearing the tokens you generate, you will eventually just win outright.

The weapon by itself is fantastic. With all the rest of it, death knight Uther definitely merits an Excellent rating.

I tried to keep up with card releases, but being out most of today made that difficult. Fortunately, plenty have cards have already been released, so I don't think it'll be too much work staying on top of the card dump.

Here's a running tally of cards and their ratings. For cards with different ratings for different formats, I'll use the Standard rating.
Excellent - 10
Good - 12
Fair - 30
Poor - 29
Terrible - 18
Millhouse Manastorm - 0

See you next time!

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