Ben Brode’s favorite meme isn’t playable: What happened?

As stated on a recent Reddit AMA, Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode’s favorite meme is the infamous “4 mana 7/7”, Flamewreathed Faceless. Poking fun at the card’s perceived overpowered-ness and the community’s salt that erupted as a result, the meme now has an ironic twist: Flamewreathed Faceless is far from oppressive.

In fact, it’s currently borderline unplayable, seeing zero competitive use in any Shaman decks. How did this card go from all-conquering outrage and humor generator to storied collection-filer? How did the 4 mana 7/7 go from OP meme card to an unplayable meme card?

Rise of a Giant

When Flamewreathed Faceless was released as part of the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, it became emblematic of the power and frustrations expressed in the all-conquering Aggro Shaman. The card quickly slotted in, forming a staple part of the deck. Being able to plop down a huge body that required an immediate answer granted the deck some surprise wins. This was especially effective against Control or Midrange lists that lacked cheap, single-target removal.

The main advantage of the 4 mana 7/7 was how impactful just a single attack to face would be. 7 health is a huge chunk of starting HP, and against a deck as aggressive as old Aggro Shaman, it’s crippling. Even the presence of Flamewreathed Faceless in a deck can prove fatal, as saving removal for it can leave a Tunnel Trogg or Totem Golem unchecked, allowing burn to finish the opponent off.

Servant of Trogg-Saron

Tunnel Trogg was a huge part of Flamewreathed Faceless’s success – and hate

Flamewreathed Faceless’s fortunes were intimately tied to that of a far smaller minion: Tunnel Trogg. This minion determined the power of Flamewreathed Faceless in two main ways. Firstly, it was a key and powerful synergy tool for the card’s 2 overload. Flamewreathed Faceless’s downside was always the lack of immediate board impact. Even at 4 mana, a deck as proactive as Aggro Shaman could rarely take turns simply plopping down stats. Buffing Tunnel Trogg by 2 provided a much-needed immediate damage impact.

More generally, Tunnel Trogg was the card that lead Aggro Shaman to come into being, and its the card whose rotation returned it to obscurity. Without its niche as a punchy minion with which to top curves, Flamewreathed faded with it. But surely the sheer value and efficiency of the 4 mana 7/7 would give it other uses?

Stats don’t rule all

Other cards can provide premium stats for cheap, without clunky overload mechanics

Unfortunately for meme-aficionados everywhere, Flamewreathed Faceless simply couldn’t find a home in other Shaman decks. Revive-focused “Bogchamp” Shamans flirted with it for a while, but ultimately its lack of taunt and crippling overload relegated it in favor of beefier Taunt minions that could be more easily comboed across multiple turns. Midrange Shamans found the tempo loss when it was hard-removed too damaging against control, and the vanilla body did little against aggro.

In short, the card fell into the trap of many Hearthstone cards: Not doing enough, soon enough. The downside of the overload meant that playing Flamewreathed became a short-cut to Tempo oblivion against many enemies. Sure it could trade favorably, but only if not removed and after giving up 6 mana across two turns.

If the card had Taunt or some other immediate effect, it perhaps would have lived on. But as it was, it became an unwieldy anchor on any deck that wanted to run out. Not contributing to win conditions and slowing down the game plan, it was an easy cut to make.

The meme, eternal

While Flamewreathed Faceless has vanished from competitive Hearthstone, it’s memory and memery live on. The joke changed/grew subtle. The punchline was less about Blizzard releasing an overpowered minion and more about the hysterical overreaction of Hearthstone’s community to ill-judged overpowered cards that prove anything but in the long run.

The fact that Purify sees play in strong, meta Standard decks without any changes, and the infamous 4 mana 7/7 is unplayable is a estament to the community’s collective inability to judge cards in the long run; and on the subtle and evolving ways memes can grow from complaints to community satire.


Artwork courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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Did Zinedine Zidane Forget the 2006 World Cup?

Real Madrid advanced to the Champions League semi-final with a 3-0 win in the second leg and 3-2 win on aggregate, which is Zinedine Zidane’s best accomplishment as manager. After the match Zidane responded to a question asking if he was nervous during match, where he answered, “I never lost my head as a player, will never do so as a coach”.

Apparently he forgot this moment during the 2006 World Cup Final against Italy:

Zidane headbutts Italy’s Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup Final. From http://www.whoateallthepies.tv

This moment has been ingrained in popular culture with people producing “memes”, games and even a statue in Qatar that was later removed.

From anildash.com

 

Headbutt statue in Qatar. From bbc.com

Leading up to the World Cup, Zidane had announced that he would retire after his contract ran out with Real Madrid at the end of the 2005-2006 season. This meant that his final match during the 2006 World Cup would be his last ever. Entering the World Cup Final, Zidane had an assist and two goals on his way to winning the Golden Ball, which is awarded to the tournament’s best player.

France matched up with Italy in the World Cup Final, for Zidane’s last game. During the match, Zidane scored on a penalty in the seventh minute, but the biggest moment of the match didn’t happen until the second half of extra time, 110 minutes into the game. Zidane and Materazzi, an Italian center back, started exchanging words in the box. The confrontation ended up continuing into the midfield where the infamous headbutt occurred. Zidane claimed that he headbutted Materazzi because he insulted is mother and sister. Materazzi has since admitted to making comments about Zidane’s sister, but not his mother. Zidane was sent off with a red card and Italy ended up winning the World Cup in a penalty shootout. In the immediate aftermath he stood by his actions due to being provoked.

Even as Zidane was beginning his coaching career in 2014 for the Real Madrid B team, he stated he would be “disappointed but, still support his player”, if a player on his team headbutted an opponent.

Maybe the next time Zidane decides to say he never lost his head, he should remember the final game of his career.  He is now known for headbutting his opponent in route to a loss on the largest stage of soccer.