Back from the Junkheap! How Unused Cards Become Great
Un’goro brought a lot of changes. The whole landscape of the meta changed, with the new cards and standard rotation forging new archetypes and casting others aside. But it’s not just newly introduced cards replacing old ones. More and more older cards that went unused are making huge comebacks. But how do cards that have already seemingly proved their unworthiness make their way back into meta domination?
New Tribals – The Curator
Sometimes all you need to see play is the right cast of supporting characters. Take the Karazhan Legendary, The Curator. Whilst The Curator saw some fringe applications, it went largely unused in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan Meta. Simply put, there weren’t enough quality Murlocs and Beasts that justified the midrange-style deck it would naturally fit in. Journey to Un’goro brought in a bevy of new Murlocs, Beasts, and Dragons, many of which fit perfectly with the decks that want to draw two or three cards for seven mana.
Most successful has been Taunt Warrior, where it consistently draws a Primordial Drake and a Direhorn Hatchling or Matriarch. But the card has also seen play in Paladin, where it can often draw a Murloc such as Hydrologist, a beast like Gentle Megasaur or Stampeding Kodo, and a Primordial Drake for dragon. This is one of the reasons why it’s important not to immediately dismiss cards with strong potential synergies just due to gaps in the current card-pool.
Rotation of Superior Alternatives – Whirlwind
Whirlwind is one of the defining cards of the Warrior class (and is the colloquial namesake of all one damage AOE effects in Hearthstone), yet for a while it saw almost zero play, going unused since Patron Warrior lost favour. The reason was simple; the initially panned Revenge proved to be far superior for most Control archetypes. With Revenge rotating out, Whirlwind has regained its rightful place as the Acolyte-cycler, aggro-stemming, execute-activating, spell of choice for controlling Warrior builds.
While this may be seen as unfortunate by some, Revenge was an interesting and powerful Control tool that enabled significant potential for high level play and counterplay. It could also be seen as a victory for the Standard rotation system. Warrior can be given interesting new angles on existing spells, but still return to the original class-defining vision once those rotate out.
Tutoring – Purify
Who would have envisioned a world where Purify sees play in a high-level competitive Standard deck? It seemed destined to remain unused. The card that provoked Reddit outrage and prompted an explanation video from Ben Brode himself is now a core component of the formidable Silence Priest. The secret to its viability lies in Shadow Visions, the incredible new Priest spell that allows you to discover copies of specific cards from your deck.
The truth is, Purify was never horrible in the best case scenario; many decks love the opportunity to silence a friendly minion and draw a card in the right circumstances. Its problem was how situational it was. Shadow Visions helps solve that by making sure you can almost always have access to a silence when you need it, making the deck an order of magnitude more competitive, and allowing Purify to find a home. Radiant Elemental reducing the cost of Priest spells doesn’t hurt either.
Enabling a Potent Curve – Murloc Tidecaller
The power of Rockpool Hunter with Murloc Tidecaller caught some people’s attention prior to release. Most notably, the combo took off with Paladin, where Vilefin Inquisitor and Grimscale Chum offered other potent 1-2 curves that could provide incredibly efficient stats. Murloc Tidecaller isn’t too impressive on its own, but its capacity to be a 3/3 on turn two makes it truly indispensable in even Midrange paladin lists. Sometimes Team 5 releases cards so strong that it brings out even sub-optimal cards purely to allow it to shine. With Murloc Paladin looking to be increasingly dominant, it’s worth being thankful that Hungry Crab still exists.
A Change to the Gameplan – Armorsmith
Warrior was always going to have an existential crisis with the rotation of Justicar Trueheart. Without being able to gain four armor per turn to activate shield slams and outlast any deck without “Jade” in the title, Warrior needed a radical new late-game win-condition. Luckily, two such conditions arrived. One in the form of Fire Plume’s Heart, and a new Deathrattle minion for N’zoth in Direhorn Hatchling. However, both N’zoth and Taunt Warrior need armor, and ended up turning to a long-forgotten ally; Armorsmith.
Armorsmith went unused as Control Warriors became more removal-oriented. Without other minions on board, Armorsmith’s underwhelming stats simply weren’t worth it. That all changed with the rotation, however. Warriors now fight vigorously for board with a variety of minions, most of which have taunt. In these cases, Armorsmith can stack up huge amounts of free armor for a tiny initial investment. An end to the early-game dominance of three and four health Totem Golems and Tunnel Troggs in favour of pingable N’zoth First Mates and Southsea Deckhands also gives the Armorsmith far more utility as an early game board contesting minion.
New Archetypes – Stonetusk Boar
Quest Rogue took nearly everyone by surprise. Nonetheless, it’s here, and it’s potent, especially after its period of refinement. Its weakness to aggro and burn means that it has to close out games as fast as possible once the quest is completed; none exemplify this more than Stonetusk.
The humble hog seemed only to exist as a lesson to newbies in the value of a single point of damage (hint – it’s less than one mana). But once buffed to quintuple its original strength, it becomes a force to be reckoned with. It’s capable of dishing out incredible burst damage with a distinctive squeal and multiple bounce effects. It’s a reminder of the fundamental power of the Charge mechanic, and how any card that does anything the cheapest is likely to be abused in some way at some point.
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