KnC Banner

Kobolds and Catacombs Day 1 Deck Theorycrafting

The next Hearthstone expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs, has finally been released. In the reveal season, we saw many powerful and fun cards that are coming out with the set. But, which of these cards fit into existing decks? What new decks are coming into the meta?

The Meta

Dragon Priest

KnC Dragon Priest

Dragon Priest Decklist

In past expansions, Dragon Priest has been an archetype that many people have toyed around with and played on ladder. In this expansion, we may see the rise of a Dragon-oriented Priest build similar to the Dragon Priest deck that was viable during the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion last year. The iteration I have theory-crafted includes a much more value-orientated game plan by including cards such as Lyra the Sunshard, Drakonid Operative, and the new Priest weapon, Dragon Soul. The deck can also be built to take on a more minion heavy route by taking out cards like Dragon Soul, Lyra the Sunshard, and Shadow Word: Death and replacing them with Cabal Shadow Priest, which synergises with Twilight Acolyte, and Twilight Drake.

 

The inclusion of Duskbreaker in this expansion really helps Dragon Priest’s historically bad matchup versus aggressive decks, which makes the new iteration of Dragon Priest that much scarier. On ladder, this deck seems like a solid choice for climbing at a high pace. In tournaments, players may elect to bring Highlander Priest instead because of its favorable win-rates versus slower decks.

 

 Zoo Warlock

KnC Zoo Warlock

Zoolock Decklist

In the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion, we once again saw the rise of an old friend: Zoo Warlock. The early game minion package combined with Prince Keleseth proved to be the kick this deck needed to get back into the meta, and topping off with Bonemare and Bloodreaver Gul’Dan made Zoo Warlock scary in the late-game as well. This time around, Blizzard has given Zoo Warlock even better tools for taking the board early game and keeping it. The addition of Kobold Librarian helps keep your hand full, which is extremely important when having so many low mana cost minions in your deck. The main difference with this Zoo Warlock compared to the previous deck is that it cuts Prince Keleseth for the new 2-drop, Vulgar Homunculus.

 

With this iteration of the deck, I decided to add the Demon synergy package in the form of Demonfire, Bloodfury potion, and Crystalweaver. We have seen quite a lot of play with Bloodfury Potion and Crystalweaver in the past Zoo Warlock decks, but the addition of the Vulgar Homunculus makes these cards coming down on curve extremely threatening. Hooked Reaver also makes an appearance in this deck because of how solid its stats are when the Battlecry goes off, as well as its ability to synergise with the rest of the demon synergy in the deck.

 

The addition of higher-health minions and buff cards will help Zoo Warlock in the next meta mainly because of the predicted prevalence of Duskbreaker on the ranked ladder. In tournament play, this deck will likely be chosen for inclusion in aggressive lineups.

Big Druid

KnC Big Druid

Big Druid Decklist

The ‘Big’ archetype saw large amounts of play during the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion as a whole, especially during the later half of the set’s meta. Kobolds and Catacombs has not given Big Druid many other tools, but the core of the deck is strong enough to still see play. The only change I have made to the current Big Druid list is taking out Innervate and adding Arcane Tyrants. Innervate, once a staple in most Druid decks, took a huge hit from the nerfs that occured in the middle of the last expansion. It was included in Big Druid, but it was arguably one of the weaker cards within the deck. Two different cards were shown from the new expansion that could find a home in Big Druid: Greedy Sprite and Arcane Tyrant. I chose to include Arcane Tyrant instead of the Sprite because it is very similar to Kun the Forgotten King in the way that it makes your power turns even more powerful. A common way Kun has been used during the meta was playing it as a big free body to pair with Ultimate Infestation. Arcane Tyrant acts in a similar way when paired with Nourish, Spreading Plague, and Ultimate Infestation as well. Greedy Sprite could be included instead of the Tyrant, but the ramp effect is rather slow and your opponent can choose to ignore it. Although this is the case, ramp is powerful enough that Greedy Sprite might see play over Arcane Tyrant.

 

Big Druid seems to be the new go-to Druid deck. In the past, Jade Druid has held this spot, but Big Druid is able to make bigger minions faster and still keep aggression at bay, which may see the ‘Big’ archetype overtaking the Jade mechanic this expansion. Because of this, it is a solid choice for both ranked ladder and tournament play.

 

Tempo Rogue

KnC Tempo Rogue

Tempo Rogue Decklist

Tempo Rogue swept the meta in dominant fashion when it was first discovered to be a powerhouse of a deck. With Kobolds and Catacombs, this deck gets even stronger with the inclusion of some slower yet highly valuable cards. One of these cards is the Rogue Legendary of the set, Sonya Shadowdancer. Sonya replaces the rather weak card of Shaku, the Collector as a card generation engine. Most of the minions in Tempo Rogue have such good effects or Battlecries that Shadowcaster saw a decent amount of experimentation and success during the expansion. Sonya is much cheaper than Shadowcaster, which makes its effect easier to pull off. The second card I have added to the deck is Fal’dorei Strider. Admittingly, a 4 mana 4/4 is rather weak as a tempo play. But, the potential for that minion to pull one, two, or even three additional 4/4 bodies is so powerful that it is worth the initial tempo loss. Even if only 1 additional body is pulled, paying 4 mana for 8/8 worth of stats is crazy powerful. There is also the potential to high-roll by creating a 4/4 on turn 7 to be able to play Bonemare onto after your opponent cleared your board the previous turn.

 

Fal’dorei Strider takes the place of Saronite Chain Gang, mainly because of Chain Gang’s vulnerability to an on-curve Duskbreaker. Overall, Tempo Rogue looks to still be a powerhouse deck next expansion, and I expect to see it played both on the ranked ladder and in tournaments.

 

Highlander Priest

KnC Highlander Priest

Highlander Priest Decklist

Highlander Priest has been at the top of the meta throughout Knights of the Frozen Throne, and it seems to still remain at the top during Kobolds and Catacombs. The Priest list I have selected to showcase only adds one card: Psychic Scream. In order to include the new Priest board clear, I chose to cut Mass Dispel from the deck. Mass Dispel is often times weak, so it made sense to take it out for one of the best cards of the upcoming expansion. This decision shows how good of a deck Highlander Priest already is. Another take on Highlander Priest is to go for a more minion-focused route by including a Dragon package with Duskbreaker. While this seems like a good idea, I feel the current version of the deck is much better. In the past, more value-oriented decks were tested. These decks included cards such as Elise the Trailblazer and Free from Amber. It was ultimately found that the faster and more burst-oriented Priest build was better. Therefore, I feel it is appropriate to stick with the tried-and-true burst style.

 

Once again, Highlander Priest seems to be at the top of the meta. Expect to see a large amount on ladder and as a staple deck in many tournament lineups.

 

The Non-Meta

Combo Hunter

KnC Combo Hunter

Combo Hunter Decklist

For the past few expansions, Hunter has been struggling as a class. Blizzard keeps pushing control tools and weird cards for the Hunter arsenal, which leaves the class in an awkward position in terms of deck building because of how weak each of the archetypes are. With the new Hunter legendary minion, Kathrena Winterwisp, I thought it would be really interesting to build a combo-oriented deck using Kathrena, Charged Devilsaur, and King Krush. It is often not a combo that will instantly kill your opponent, but the amount of stats that the combo provides are truly ridiculous. This deck runs the Secret package to help fend off aggro, the Candleshot and Hunter’s Mark combo to deal with large threats, and Deathstalker Rexxar to create even more value in a late game scenario.

 

While the deck might not be top-tier, it seems extremely fun to play. Personally, I will be testing this deck in tournament play in a lineup that is attempting to target control decks. On ranked ladder, Combo hunter still seems weak to aggro decks and Highlander Priest, which makes it not extremely viable in the upcoming meta.

Conclusion

Overall, Kobolds and Catacombs sees both powerful and fun cards added to the game. While it may not be the best expansion of the year in terms of player attitude and hype, it will likely lead to a diverse and healthy meta both in terms of ranked ladder and tournament play.

 

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

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Scott!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

The defining neutral cards of the Frozen Throne

Strong neutrals can define metas, and Knights of the Frozen Throne was no exception. From headline eight drops to snowballing dragons, the expansion’s most powerful neutral cards have all shaped the expansion’s most impactful decks. While Death Knights and Jades stole the show, these cards have been quietly working in the background to warp the meta around them.

The Lich King

A go-to for late-game value, the Lich has gotten a bit slow for today’s meta

One of the expansion’s first neutral hits, Arthas, could conceivably be included in almost any deck. With beefy stats, a defensive Taunt and powerful card-advantage grating ability, he was near ubiquitous early on. This was especially true during the reign of Jade Druid. Thanks to Druid’s limited removal, he could be a handy curve topper for Midrange and Control alike. His massive popularity even helped create a mini-meta where the Black Knight was commonly run.

The late-expansion meta treats him less kindly, however. As decks become more refined, big blobs of late-game value are harder and harder to justify. Especially when other late-game powerhouses like others on this list had more immediate board impact for less mana.

Bonemare

Making Don Hancho cry since 2017

King of seven in Arena and Constructed alike, Dr. Bone is still as popular as ever. Initial experiments with synergy cards like Skelemancer proved its value. Even without the synergy, its huge package of impactful stats justified its continued inclusion. Originally finding a home in Midrange Paladin, it has migrated over to the more popular Tempo Rogue.

Not only content to be a powerful inclusion in a number of board-centric Constructed decks, as a super-powerful Common it also has a huge Arena impact. The sheer stat efficiency of this card, coupled with the huge board swing, will likely mean that it will be a strong inclusion in any Midrange deck as long as it’s in Standard. Luckily, it has soft counters; Shadowreaper Anduin, turn six board clears and Silence effects can heavily limit its power.

Skulking Geist

When a six mana 4/6 that doesn’t impact the board was heavily played, you know that Jade was too powerful

Skulking Geist is arguably the worst card on this list, but it saw huge amounts of play regardless. When pre-nerf Jade Druid dominated ladder, Geist was one of the only ways Control could hope to survive at all. By discarding the infinite Idol win condition, Geist gave a faint hope of outlasting. However, the raw power of old Jade often overwhelmed its opponent regardless.

Despite all this, Geist saw large amounts of play across Control of all stripes. It created interesting side-effects too; catching other one mana spells in the wake of its scattershot approach to destroying Idols. Even now, if you’re facing off against a Control deck, it’s often wise to liberally spend your one mana spells before they get gobbled up by the greedy ghoul. Less popular now as Jade has become marginally less meta-defining, it’s still a must have for any decks that want to fatigue out their opponents.

Prince Keleseth

Like other buildarounds, Keleseth increases diversity at the cost of draw RNG

Keleseth was never meant to be this good. Reviews and expectations panned it, initially with good reason. Before the Fiery War Axe and Innervate nerfs, it seemed unlikely that any aggressive deck could compete with Pirate Warrior and Aggro Druid without two-drops. But as these dominating early strategies fell away, Keleseth deck’s slower approach was given room to breathe.

The card is polarising; incredibly potent when drawn and crippling when not, but decks like Tempo Rogue and some Zoolocks are able to forgo this downside and do okay enough without it to justify its inclusion. Keleseth can easily win the early board single handedly, making every one of your subsequent plays outclass the opponent’s. Combined with Shadowstep and Patches, it can look almost reminiscent of Quest Rogue with the right hand.

Cobalt Scalebane

Far better than that other five mana tribal card with Cobalt in its name

Cobalt Scalebane almost screams arena card. Its mediocre stats and slow, win-more effect is strong in Arena, yes; but it also has been surprisingly effective in Constructed. It provides a solid five-drop for any deck that wants it, and is decent even without board control.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to its success has been the rise of Priest. Priest has almost no good ways to deal with this. Surviving Dragonfire and all other Priest AOE, only Shadowreaper or Shadow Word Death are effective counters. And when this card comes down on five, it puts you on a terrifyingly short clock. While it may lose out if Priest falls in popularity or more immediately impactful five-drops come along, it’ll likely be turning 1/1’s into 4/1’s for some time.

 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com. Custom cards via Hearthcards.net.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

Filling the post-nerf power vacuum

Hearthstone’s upcoming 9.1 balance changes are a shotgun blast into the top tiers of ladder. Besides Priest, the changes will impact every tier one deck. Pirate Warrior, Jade Druid, Aggro Druid and Murloc Paladin all suffer substantial nerfs to core, deck-defining cards. With the top dogs all cowed, who will rise to take their place?

Rise of Razakus

nerf

Priest’s repeatedly refreshing heropower is devastating when it’s zero mana

Priest may be the first on people’s minds. Raza/Kazakus has proven to be a scarily potent deck on both ladder and in tournaments. While the deck suffers from consistency issues, it is truly terrifying when all the pieces slot together. Shadowreaper Anduin’s “machine-gun” effect of zero mana Raza hero powers ends games fast vs control, and that frees the deck up to run a decent anti-aggro base.

Razakus’ achilles heel has been succumbing to the twin threats of the uber-aggressive burn of Pirate Warrior and the ever-ramping late-game threats of Jade. With the Fiery War Axe and Innervate nerfs, the deck will gain some breathing room to dominate.

Don’t count on a Priest-only meta though. Exodia Mage exists as a strong counter, and a singleton deck like Priest can only run one dirty rat as counterplay. What’s more, aggressive Midrange decks like Hunter may also arise to give Priest trouble with sticky minions and continuous pressure.

Mage’s Secret deck

With less powerful Aggro, Mage may be free to become more aggressive

Secret Mage has been operating under the radar lately. While it’s one of the few decks that maintains a decent winrate against Jade Druid, its other matchups suffer. Most notably, the three most popular Aggro decks all rip it to shreds most games. Mage simply can’t compete with Aggro Druid, Murloc Paladin and Pirate Warrior’s early game consistently enough. And with few comeback mechanisms, it struggles to come back from early disadvantages.

Luckily for fans of Fireballing face, all three of those decks are affected by the nerfs. With fewer counters, Secret Mage could prey on the control decks that timidly emerge into the new meta.

Still, it’s unlikely to be defining. Jade Druid will likely continue to be a better counter to Control, while maintaining decent winrates vs aggro; even with a six mana Spreading plague and weakened Innervate.

A new kind of Warrior

nerf

Worse Innervate means more time to play Geist

Though it’s very much an underground hit currently, Fatigue/Mill Warrior is turning heads. Ever since Dog’s refined list exploded the deck into the popular Hearthstone consciousness, it’s been showing significant potential. With an infinite win condition and serious anti-aggro credentials, the deck is held back largely by a high skill ceiling and slow games.

Unlike almost every Warrior deck ever, Mill/Fatigue Warrior does not run Fiery War Axe. As such, it will get through the balance changes unscathed. Moreover, Warleader’s nerf weakens a key unfavourable matchup in Murloc Paladin. With a less competitive field, the deck could become much more viable.

However, there are some caveats. Midrange decks may emerge and challenge the deck’s limited mid-game board control options. Moreover, the deck is far too slow and difficult to have an overwhelming ladder presence.

Rexxar’s return

Good old Midrange Hunter looks to make a comeback. The aggro-flavoured beast synergy deck has a long and storied history. However, since Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, competitive early game minions such as Patches have limited its utility.

But with Aggro Druid, Pirate Warrior and Murloc Paladin all taking serious hits to core cards, it may thrive in the post-nerf world. A decline in Pirate Warrior especially could give the deck new lease of life, as the near-mandatory double Golakka Crawlers can finally be cut if Pirates fall below a critical threshold.

Still, with no eight mana Call of the Wild as a tempo finisher, Hunters will be unlikely to truly take first place. Deathstalker Rexxar and Savannah Highmane are simply not enough to finish games against Control a lot of the time. And with aggro decks still out-competing Hunter’s first few turns, a Rexxar meta seems unlikely.

The Eternal Jade

Without Innervate, Aya is still potent

Unfortunately, many signs still point to a meta still dominated by Jade. As with the nerfs to Midrange Shaman preceding unprecedented Midrange Shaman dominance, Druid’s main counters are being hit hard too. While an Innervate nerf will curtail Druid’s power greatly, the power of cards like Malfurion the Pestilent, Aya, Jade Idol and Ultimate Infestation will remain. Along with the traditional Druid core of Swipes and Wild Growths, a slightly more anti-aggro Jade Druid could still dominate all slower matchups while retaining anti-aggro consistency.

However, only time will tell. Perhaps the Innervate nerf will be more impactful than many realise. Or perhaps Zoo will come out of nowhere to become a tier one deck. The only way to make sure is to test these decks out in the merciless proving ground of ladder.

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

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

Is there a good way to nerf Druid?

Picture a scene. It’s a few months from now. Assume Druid, specifically Jade Druid, still dominates the meta, with few counters. Mike Donais, Ben Brode, Dean Ayala and the rest of Hearthstone’s design team sit around a table. They’re throwing around ideas and discussions behind Druid’s past, present and future. The howls of dismay from their user-base at Druid’s dominance demands action; and they have decided not to wait until a new expansion to shake things up.

They would have a delicate problem on their hands. Druid’s power hinges on a number of key cards. Worse, many of those cards are integral to the class’s entire identity. Sure, you could eliminate Jade Druid from the meta by nerfing Wild Growth, Innervate and Swipe. But without these cards, Druid would likely just feel like a reskinned Hunter.

Meanwhile, nerfing other cards without touching the core Druid package could lead to yet more oppressive Druid decks in the future. So what cards could be on the chopping block for Druid?

Innervate

Innervate is undeniably powerful – but may be ingrained in Druid’s identity

For some, Innervate is at the crux of issues with Druid. A staple of basically every Druid deck ever, Innervate is about as powerful a tempo tool as you can get. Two mana for one card is incredibly strong, especially early on. When it’s pushing out a snowbally minion, landing a crucial buff, drawing cards with Auctioneer, or finding lethal with Malygos, even more so.

Some, (like Reynad) argue that Innervate is fundamentally not fun and overpowered as a card. As a counterargument, Innervate could be seen as a strong but defining card for Druid, as mana ramp and manipulation is their hallmark. Changing or rotating Innervate would free up design space, but at a cost of Druids power level being reduced on a permanent basis.

Pros of a nerf:

  • Frees up design space
  • Reduces disparity between best and mediocre early game
  • Makes cards like Vicious Fledgling less difficult

Cons of a nerf:

  • Hits all Druid archetypes, not just problematic ones
  • Permanent reduction of Druid power
  • Erodes class identity

Jade Idol

Jade Idol has been at the forefront of many players’ ire. Its unique infinite threat generation is no longer unstoppable, thanks to Skulking Geist. However, it’s still at the core of one of the most potent anti-Control archetypes in the game, and the current most popular deck on Standard Ladder.

A reduction in the ability of Idol to generate infinite threats would be the only nerf that would make sense. It would reduce Jade’s winrate versus Control, while leaving other new Druid archetypes alone. However, this would only have a limited impact on the deck’s overall winrate. It would also make little sense immediately after the printing of Skulking Geist.

Pros:

  • Hits only Jade Druid
  • Makes Jade less polarizing vs Control
  • Maintains class identity

Cons:

  • Low impact on overall winrate
  • Skulking Geist already exists
  • Will rotate out soon anyway

Ultimate Infestation

Ultimate Infestation draws complaints, but may not be the root of the problem

This card is one of the newer additions to Druid’s arsenal. It’s also one of the most controversial. I’ve discussed it before at some length. While it is arguably not especially powerful compared to many other 10 mana cards, the comparison has some flaws. It synergises incredibly well with Druid’s ample ramp tools, and it requires no synergies to be played to great effect.

The debate over whether or not this card is overpowered may change depending on how the meta reacts to Druid’s current dominance. If it speeds you considerably in response, the card may not even see too much play. What’s more, it’s a tricky card to change. As a 10 mana card, its cost cannot be increased. And as its flavour relies on the number five, changing all aspects to four would probably be overly heavy-handed.

What’s more, Druids that wanted additional card draw could easily swap back to running Gadgetzan Auctioneer. However, it would undeniably cut into Jade Druid’s oppressiveness. Overly powerful card draw like Ancient of Lore have proven to be worthy of changing in the past.

Pros:

  • Reduces power level of other ramp cards
  • Doesn’t affect Druid’s Classic toolset
  • Card draw has historically been overly powerful in Druid

Cons:

  • Many card-draw alternatives
  • Hurts non-Jade Ramp Druid
  • Not overpowered compared to other 10 mana options

Spreading Plague

Spreading Plague shores up a key Druid weakness to big boards

This card has been behind much of the class’s rise to prominence. Its ability to recover massive amounts of tempo while throwing up huge Taunt walls against aggro massively improves Aggro matchups. Pirate Warrior, once deemed a soft counter to Jade Druid, now has an unfavourable matchup against the deck. Spreading Plague means that the traditional Aggro strategy against Druid (namely, going wide) no longer is as effective.

Instead, Decks need to focus on building compact, “tall” boards. Murloc Paladin is perfect for this, but even so, struggles against the card. A reduction in spreading plague would reduce Druids consistency against Aggro and allow it to naturally become less greedy. Unfortunately, reinforcing the popularity of Aggro in this way may just strengthen another type of Druid in Aggro Druid. Jade Druid would likely become yet more polarising against Control too.

Pros:

  • Big impact
  • Allows meta to self-correct
  • Reinforces Class Identity of Druids having few tools to deal with wide boards

Cons:

  • Makes Jade more polarising
  • Encourages Aggro Druid
  • Pushes meta towards Aggro in general

 Honourable mentions

A number of non-class cards are also problematic. Cards like Aya Blackpaw, Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Jade Spirit could also come under scrutiny. However, due to the collateral damage of other classes being impacted, they are unlikely to see a change; at least until the next standard rotation.

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

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

geist

Skulking Geist can’t save us from Jade

Community stats suggest unprecedented Druid dominance

Druid has taken over the metagame. Vicious Syndicate puts the class at roughly 50% of some ranks’ population. While Aggro and Midrange Taunt variants have seen success, by far the most popular variant is Jade. Massively improved by Druid’s new anti-aggro and draw tools, Jade’s infinite threats are hard to beat. Supposedly, Knights of the Frozen Throne included a “Jade Counter”, Skulking Geist.

The six mana ghoul destroys all one mana spells (such as Jade Idol), no matter where they are. Annihilating Druid’s infinite win condition is powerful. So why isn’t Skulking Geist saving the day?

The Tempo-less tech

Expensive, situational, and tempo suicide. It’s also Control’s best answer to Jades

Skulking Geist’s problems begin the moment it hits the board. As a six mana 4/6, it has horrible stats for such a limited effect. Unlike other Tech cards, such as Goloakka Crawler or Harrison Jones, Skulking Geist does not impact the board. Instead, it only affects cards in hand and deck. The problems this generates are twofold.

Firstly, this means it does little to help the immediate threat from the Jade onslaught. Jade rarely needs to go infinite. In many decks, a Skulking Geist would reduce the overall winrate. If you rely on out-tempoing and rushing the Druid down, a six mana 4/6 won’t help. As a result, midrange decks lack the power to tech against Jade the way they do Pirate Warrior or Murloc Paladin.

Secondly, it means that even in Control decks that might outlast Jades without Idol, the winrate doesn’t improve much. Druids can easily grind down an opponent. Not only does Geist have to be drawn early, but Druid has up to 8/8 Jades without Idols. Combined with continuous damage from Malfurion and consistent ramp and draw, they’re strong even without idols.

The sad singleton

A six mana 4/6 needs a powerful effect

The tempo loss from playing Geist even against the deck it is designed to beat necessarily precludes it being a two of. Not only does it have anti-synergy with itself, but any deck that ran two would struggle to beat non-Jade Druid opponents. Running only one copy of Geist also creates a whole host of other problems. Often it will sit in the bottom of the deck, waiting until all removal has been exhausted and lethal is represented on board to pop up.

Smart Druids can take advantage of this. By shuffling Idols early against control, they can prioritise playing them before they get destroyed. Normally, if a Druid can play 3-4 Idols, then the game becomes unwinnable purely due to the sheer weight of remaining Golems.

Collateral damage

Geist

Shield Slams are great for removing Jades. Unfortunately, Geist destroys them along with Idols

Running Geist also represents a danger for many decks. Since Geist also destroys your own one mana spells, it can gut your own as well as your opponent’s tools. Warriors and Priests hurt the most. Pint-Sized Potions, Shield Slams and Power Word Shields are often key for defeating Jade, but these will be ripped prematurely from your deck; or worse, your hand.

While this can be countered by waiting until you’ve played these cards to Geist, Druid often affords you no such luxury. With the relentless march of the Jades, Geist needs to come out as early as possible. In doing so, it can often leave you without the necessary spells to kill the remaining Golems.

An expensive investment

geist

If you don’t draw Geist in time, Jades quickly spiral out of control

By far the most prohibitive part of running Geist is its cost. Unlike other cheaper tech cards that can be kept in the mulligan, Geist will clog up your hand for six turns. Often Control decks will be caught in a dilemma; keep Geist in the mulligan and risk losing horribly to a strong start? Or toss it and lose when you cannot draw it in time?

Its expense also prevents efficient usage. By far the best time to use Geist is immediately after an Ultimate Infestation; one of the few times a Druid will have an Idol or two kept in their hand without being instantly played. However, spending six mana on a 4/6 when the opponent has just had a tempo swing with five mana and a 5/5 is a poor idea. Once again, the trap of risking being out-valued or out-tempo’d remains.

Ineffective, but satisfying

Skulking Geist won’t give you a massively improved winrate vs Jade Druid. Even if you play the kind of super-reactive deck archetype that benefits from it, it likely won’t shift your winrate to positive. However, there is one overwhelming advantage to Geist: Hope.

Ladder can be a demoralising experience for a Control deck, especially in a world of Druids. While successfully fatiguing out a Jade Druid may be a difficult and rare experience, it certainly tends to brighten your day. And that may be just enough reason to run a six mana 4/6.

Artwork courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com. Data featured from vicioussyndicate.com. 

Title artwork by Dany Orizio.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

Dr. Bone

From Dr. Boom to Dr. Bone: The new king of seven

Bonemare is new, Neutral, and nightmarishly tricky to deal with

Knights of the Frozen Throne released only a few days ago, but the meta is beginning to crystallise and settle. Druid, Paladin and Shaman are strong early contenders for Aggro and Midrange decks, whereas Priest and Warlock dominate Control. Most of the impactful new inclusions have been class cards. Spreading Plague, Righteous Protector and Shadowreaper Anduin have propelled their respective classes to meta dominance.

However, a few powerful Knights of the Frozen Throne neutrals may yet shape the meta. Perhaps the strongest of these is the new Dr. 7: Bonemare. Or as I like to call it, Dr. Bone.

Board-in-a-box

Like Dr. Boom, Dr. Bone presents 9/9 of efficient stats with upside spread across multiple bodies

Bonemare isn’t especially exciting, concept-wise. Minions that buff other minions are as old as Hearthstone. New players can immediately use the concept with the Basic Shattered Sun Cleric. What makes Dr. Bone isn’t so much a novel concept as the raw numbers and its defensive power.

In terms of raw stats, Bonemare is beastly (although unlike Bone Drake, it has no tribal tag). Its 5/5 body for seven mana is pretty bad, but combine it with the +4/+4 buff it gives, and it’s an impressive 9/9 worth of stats for seven. Not only that, but the +4/+4 it gives essentially has charge. In essence, it’s a four mana Blessing of Kings plus a three mana 5/5 in one card; an efficient package indeed.

To complicate things further for the opponent, these stats are not put into one target ripe for hard removal á la Swamp King Dread, Hearthstone’s other seven mana 9/9. Bonemare spreads out over two beefy bodies, both of which demand removal.

Supreme versatility

Bonemare is great for locking down a board against Aggro, or for value vs Control

Another huge component of Bonemare’s strength comes from its versatility. As long as you have a minion on board, it can be used to fulfil almost any strategy. The fact that the buffed minion gains Taunt opens huge tactical options. Against Control you can go face of course, but it’s also handy to dodge a Pirate Warrior’s Arcanite reaper to the face. It’s a perfect tool for trading as well, as you can selectively apply the buff to get the best value. The ability to grant Taunt also means that it’s often safe to push face damage with the buff target, as the opponent will likely be forced to trade with it anyway.

While Paladin and Shaman can make best use of buff synergies with their hero powers and minions, Warriors and Druids have also found good use for it. The card’s sheer power and lack of efficient answers means that it’s likely to remain a popular curve topper for some time to come.

A Midrange Messiah

There are downsides of course. It requires a minion target to be effective, and is otherwise almost useless. However, most decks that would consider running Bonemare can easily flood the board. What’s more, if worst comes to worse it can still be played with a one drop or hero power for a quick dump of stats. Though the opportunity for trading is lost, throwing down two mid-sized minions, one of which has taunt, can often be enough to save or close out the game.

This balance between aggression and defensiveness makes it perfect for Midrange decks of all stripes, from aggressive to those leaning to Control. Being incredibly powerful whether you’re the “beatdown” or not is a rare trait in a card, but Bonemare manages it. As long as a deck is Midrange, it is likely to want this card.

Identity theft?

Will Bonemare’s success come at the cost of class flavour?

New, experimental versions of Aggro Paladin have even been considering dropping cards like Tirion for Bonemare! Coming down one turn earlier, it fulfills a similar purpose of a value bomb that also protects the face and pushes damage. Here we come to a slightly troubling nature of the card. Due to being a powerful Neutral minion, it may erode class identity by squeezing out classic Class minions. If Warriors cut Grommash, if Paladins cut Tirion, and if Warlocks cut Doomguard for this, then games start to feel stale and similar.

Blizzard has wisely shied away from these kinds of omnipresent Neutrals in the past. Midrange decks make up a huge proportion of the Meta, and if Bonemare finds its way into all of them, it could lead to a troubling blandness between classes.

Countering Dr. Bone

Dr. Bone

When the best counter to a 5/5 is a 4/5, things may go badly for you

Worryingly, Bonemare doesn’t have many direct counters. The Black Knight deals with the buffed minion, but trades poorly with Bonemare itself. Spellbreaker reduces the power of the buffed minion; but often the toughness will remain untouched if it has already traded. Dirty Rat can bring the body down early, but is still a risky and anti-tempo counter.

By far, the best counter to Dr. Bone is simply to clear the opponent’s board prior to it coming down. While this isn’t always possible, it’s worth considering if you’re holding onto the Brawl or Dragonfire Potion. Otherwise, consider playing a deck such as Freeze Mage that’s effective against Midrange strategies.

Or you could even run a Bonemare of your own, and leave others to make these tough decisions on how to clear your board…

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

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

 

 

Hearthstone’s design is evolving for the better

Hearthstone’s come a long way since its 2014 release. In that time, the design team has changed and expanded; and with it so has its philosophies. The dev team have developed their strategies on designing cards significantly. With a focus on interactivity, diversity and balance, the meta is healthier than ever. But how have Team 5’s design strategies evolved? And what does that mean for the cards of the future?

Neutrals are less ubiquitous and generic

Ragnaros, while unique, was too ubiquitously powerful

Medivh’s strengths lie in unique synergies and interactions

Gone are the days of Doctor Boom and Piloted Shredder. Very few Neutral cards are in a great number of different competitive decks. Those that are are chosen due to interesting synergies, not raw stats. In the past, decks (especially aggressive ones) have seemed very similar. With everyone running Knife Jugglers, Shredders, and Haunted Creepers, it was hard for decks to feel distinct.

This has been remedied with rotations, select nerfs and conservative stats on new early-game neutrals. While there are a number of Neutrals run in specific decks, they are chosen for a specific purpose instead of just being “good”. Fire Fly is popular for its token synergies, Acolytes for its synergistic card draw, and Medivh for its spell-focused late game power. Decks have a huge number of unique cards, and even decks with similar strategies feel different. Playing against a Token Shaman is very different to fighting Token Druid!

Lifegain is more class-appropriate and interactive

Lifegain is an important part of Hearthstone to counter Aggro and Burn. However, non-interactive lifegain focused around a few ultra-powerful cards can make games feel frustrating . Team 5 have shied away from super-powerful single-card healing available to all classes like Reno and Antique Healbot. After all, it’s pretty frustrating to have games decided by whether or not someone draws one single uber-important card!

Instead, Team 5 have restricted lifegain. While this led to some classes becoming unfortunately weak (RIP Warlock), heal has become far less frustrating. Lifegain that remains often focuses on synergy, spells and board interaction. Cards like Alley Armorsmith, Hallazeal, Earthen Scales or Priest of the Feast require more thought, deckbuilding and smart play than simple burst heal. This increases counterplay and skill-testing. Meanwhile, the lifegain being restricted to classes with it as part of their core identity has furthered sense of class identity. It is, however, pretty unfortunate that it comes at the expense of Warlock’s viability.

Late-game cards are more pro-active, synergistic and powerful

DIE INSECT is RNG dependent, but more pro-active and exciting

Tank Up was great for Warriors, but boring

That fatigue was a viable win condition for so much of Hearthstone’s history is telling. Early on, there were simply no options to put value into your deck to outlast Control without becoming supremely clunky versus other decks. Cards like Ysera were strong of course, but with removal powerful and ubiquitous, it was far easier to remove than threaten with minions in the late game. This came to a head with the addition of cards like Entomb, Elise and Justicar Trueheart. Control decks almost stopped running threats altogether in favour of the Golden Monkey (and even then, only after the opponent had first been forced to play theirs).

While this had the effect of fascinating, complex gameplay, it lacked excitement. Hearthstone rarely shines when both players are pursuing a strategy of doing nothing. To encourage more pro-active late-game play, numerous potent high-value cards were introduced. C’thun decks, Quests such as Fire Plume’s Heart and yes, even the controversial Jade Idol, pushed action into the late game. Instead of not drawing cards, now players compete to activate their own powerful win conditions. Though some disparity in their availability is still present, new powerful end-game tools will help bridge this gap.

Limited burst damage from hand

Of all the nerf targets for Hearthstone’s balance changes, none are more consistently targeted than burst damage. Dying from max HP is frustrating and has limited counterplay for classes without Armor or Ice Block. The potential downside of this is to limit Combo decks. But Team 5 has ensured that Combo decks still exist, albeit in a more value-oriented gameplan.

Modern Combo decks like Miracle Priest, Miracle Rogue and Burn Mage no longer seek to burst down the enemy in one turn. Instead, they seek to utilise powerful synergies to deal damage over multiple turns or create massive value swings. This allows more opportunity for counterplay, as well as being less salt-inducing.

AOE is more efficient

Powerful AOE increases the options for Control decks to flourish

AOE has gotten better. For a variety of reasons, it’s now far better to include Classic AOE cards like Brawl and Blizzard. Not only that, but Team 5 are becoming committed to giving most classes both early and late-game AOE removal. These new cards are often powerful and efficient, allowing for for more reactions to board flooding and giving Midrange and Control more breathing room.

Not only does this improve archetype diversity, it also increases class diversity and counterplay. Playing differently against a Priest than against a Mage due to their different arsenal of AOE removal options is skill-testing and interactive, as is choosing the right moment to nuke the board.

The future

Though it’s too early to call much for the new Knights of the Frozen Throne Expansion, there are promising signs. Complexity is going up, with new mechanics pushing the envelope of what’s possible. The designers’ continual commitment to meta diversity, counter-play and balance has created some of the best metas of Hearthstone history. Here’s hoping the next one lives up to that high standard.

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

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

What Ever Happened to Combo Warrior?


The Warrior Class is nothing if not flexible. From its early Control roots, to its current Aggro and Taunt incarnations, Warrior has excelled in every Hearthstone Archetype. We’ve seen Controlling Control Warriors, Midrange Dragon and Tempo Warriors, Aggro Pirate Warriors and Combo Patron and Worgen Warriors. However, while certain Warrior archetypes have grown and evolved, others have dropped off. Combo Warrior in particular used to dominate, but has now almost completely disappeared from the ladder. What happened?

Early Roots

Combo Warriors have been around as long as Hearthstone. Charge is a key exploitable keyword that combo decks have used to deliver huge One Turn Kills (OTKs). In Hearthstone’s Beta, Warrior benefited from the initial versions of Charge and Warsong Commander, which granted potentials for absurd OTKs or Two Turn Kills with Alexstrasza, Gorehowl and Molten Giants.

These interactions quickly forced a change to both of these cards, reducing the impact of Charge to one minion and giving the Warsong Commander Charge effect a three attack maximum threshold.

Glory Days

Warsong Commander was potent, pre nerf

The heyday of Combo Warriors was undoubtedly the rule of Patron. Grim Patron was an initially underrated Neutral minion from the Blackrock Mountain. Its incredible synergy with sources of one damage made it a natural fit for Warrior. It was natural counter to classes without AOE and low attack minions. In addition to its anti-aggro potential, it could launch massively buffed Frothing Berserkers at the opponent’s face in Control matchups. This, combined with an incredible draw engine giving unparalleled consistency, made it one of the strongest decks of all time in the hands of a sufficiently skilled player.

Unfortunately for fans of Combo Warrior, this was not to last. A sledgehammer of a nerf to Warsong Commander limited the deck’s potential, forcing it down an aggressive Midrange route incorporating cards like Dr. Boom and Grommash. Though the deck survived, it was never the same intricate web of combo synergies that allowed it to dominate with brutal, refined efficiency.

Revenge of the Worgen

While Patron Warrior was forced down a more Midrange route, Control players who thought they were safe from huge Warrior OTKs were in for a rude surprise as Raging Worgen Warrior briefly terrorized the ladder. In a rare case of genuine Hearthstone innovation, Worgen Warrior came out of nowhere in a previously-deemed stale period of the meta. Utilising the previously unnoticed Wild Pyromancer-Commanding Shout synergy, the deck cycled towards playing Charge on a Raging Worgen and copying it with a Faceless Manipulator for potentially 50+ face damage.

Despite its single-minded gameplan, the deck was remarkably consistent, only really being halted by pure face strategies or multiple Taunts. It was never especially oppressive, but Team 5 were understandably apprehensive about the negative feeling of losing to a nigh-unstoppable 50 damage burst combo. The card Charge was changed, leading to it not allowing face to be targeted.

On the Shoulders of Giants

Blood Warriors allowed Combo Warriors to survive (barely) by copying Arcane Giants

After this change, there was a lull in Combo Warrior’s activity before the introduction of Arcane Giant in the One Night in Karazhan. It finally gave Warriors another Combo win condition. Combined with Blood Warriors, a sufficiently spell heavy Warrior could create massive boards of zero mana 8/8s. Incorporating the Worgen Warrior’s Wild Pyromancer shell, this deck saw limited success, including an abortive attempt to bring it to Blizzcon by pro player Edwin “HotMeowth” Cook.

However, Arcane Giants and Blood Warriors are an inconsistent, meta dependent tool for Warriors to use. It requires an all-in strategy, massive player skill, and huge deckbuilding sacrifices. Meanwhile, the reward is simply underwhelming. While full boards of 8/8s are impressive, it’s nowhere near as consistent as an OTK gameplan. It’s easily thwarted by hard removal, board clears or just early pressure to force tempo plays.

As a result, the deck has fallen to the wayside completely, leaving lovers of Combo Warrior no competitive ladder option. New additions like Sudden Genesis, Sleep with the Fishes and Iron Hide have failed to address the inherent lack of a strong win condition.

A Lyra for Warriors?

It would take someone with more skill than me to balance a card like this, but it could be done (Via Hearthcards.net)

The problems Combo Warrior faces can only be addressed with new cards. Like Priest, Warrior deserves new “tricky” cards that reinforce its combo history and huge amount of inherent potential. While the skeleton of combo tools remain, it lacks a consistent goal to strive for. Of course, this does not mean that we should return to the days of 50+ damage OTK combos; but providing an interesting, interactive, board based, potent combo piece that fits in with the flavour and mechanics of Warrior would be a brilliant and well appreciated piece of game design. Some kind of Legendary or high-cost minion with interactions around taking damage that generated hand value to challenge Control Decks. Perhaps something half-way between Ysera, Lyra and Hogger, Doom of Elwyn.

Whatever it looks like, Combo Warriors deserve something like it to expand the realm of those “fun, tricky” plays beyond just Priest and Rogue, to a class that has been using them for just as long, if not longer.

 

Title image by Alex Horley Orlandelli. Via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com, courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

 

Hearthstone’s Cost Problem

Journey to Un’goro may be the most balanced, diverse and flavourful Hearthstone expansions ever released. It’s lead to well-spread, interesting meta, every class has its counters, and no Tier 1 deck ruins everyone’s day. However, the launch of Un’goro was marked by unprecedented frustration over cost.

Across the Hearthstone Subreddit and official forums, users complained about disappointing packs and underwhelming options with their new opened cards. The decks they wanted to theorycraft seemed to be hidden behind huge dust or cash investments. Conspiracy theories spread about Blizzard cooking the books to reduce the number of usable legendaries or increase duplicates. While these were quickly rebuked (and corroborated by community data), the fact that the openings felt so disappointing should speak volumes.

And while the issues with launch pack opening disappointments trailed off (largely as most Quests turned out to be less than competitive), core concerns and frustrations about the overall cost of Hearthstone remains. Here are the key reasons Hearthstone’s felt a lot more expensive lately.

Hunter Or Nothing

There are almost no decent budget decks like old Zoo

It’s definitely possible to succeed with budget lists. Popular streamer and meme master Disguised Toast recently managed to achieve Legend rank on a free-to-play account started soon after the launch of Un’goro, without the usual Arena grinding that hallmarked other free-to-play efforts. However, his efforts represent the experience of many new players; he was railroaded towards Hunter. Midrange Hunter represents the only option for semi-competitive decks that doesn’t require Epics or Legendaries. This is fine for those who enjoy the Aggressive Midrange playstyle; but for those who are enthralled by the other archetypes, it’s hardly a good advertisement for the game to have this as the only low-cost option.

Worse, with its reliance on class cards and without any other Hunter archetype available, the easiest avenue into semi-competitive play also represents a dead end, with no other decks to springboard onto.

The Progression Gap

If we chart the trajectory of a player as they explore a new deck, class, or the game as a whole, we can see it in terms of three phases. First, the initial learning and discovering phase where they try out with their initial cards as best they can. Then, the collection and refinement of cards and skills, with incrementally improving decks. Finally, the adoption of highly refined decks and strategies, with later exploration into other less familiar archetypes as the cycle begins anew. While the first and particularly the last phases of the game remain as strong as ever in Un’goro, with interesting mechanics, synergies and balanced high-level play rewarding player’s skill and ingenuity with fun and success, the second phase is looking shaky.

Simply put, there’s little viability in “budget” versions of existing decks. Every single non-hunter competitive deck not only contains multiple expensive Epics and Legendaries, they demand them. While you can try Murloc Paladin without Vilefin Inquisitor, Tirion, Sunkeeper Tarim, Murloc Warleader, Gentle Megasaur, or Finja, you won’t see much reward for your perseverance. Quest decks are self-explanatory in their cost. Priests simply have to include two Shadow Visions and likely Lyra, even outside of Dragon’s Potions, Silence’s Shamblers and Karazhan Purifys. Even historically cheap aggressive decks like Pirate Warrior and Aggro Druid are questionable at best without cards like Patches, Southsea Captain or Living Mana. Perhaps the closest to a non-Hunter budget deck to build on, Secret Mage, rests heavily on the Epic Primordial Glyph, Karazhan’s Babbling Book and Medivh’s Valet.

Compared to old metas, which largely had numerous cheap decks or decks that could be remade in a far more budget-friendly fashion by curving lower with cheaper, smaller minions, we are seeing a situation where playing a new deck without losing a huge amount of competitive viability is simply too expensive in terms of dust for many players.

No All-powerful Neutrals

Dr. Boom was expensive, but he could go into almost every deck

Say what you like about Doctor Boom, he was an equal opportunity giggling goblin. Equally at home in an Aggro Paladin as a Control Warrior, he was a staple not only for his power but also for his versatility across uncounted numbers of decks. Similarly for pre-nerf Knife Juggler, Piloted Shredder, Ragnaros, BGH, Sylvanas and Azure Drake; the defining feature of pre-Standard Hearthstone was arguably a huge number of immensely powerful Neutrals. While these auto-includes hurt the game in many respects by reducing diversity and making for a more homogeneous experience, they did nonetheless make one’s collection far more versatile. Often, when trying a new deck, you could rely on having a decent core already in your collection simply by having a few key neutrals.

Un’goro’s coinciding with many of these cards rotating (building on the impact caused by the previous set of Standard rotations, Hall of Fame inclusions and nerfs) added fuel to the cost issues. No longer would it be possible to build the skeletons of multiple decks out of a limited pool of high-powered neutrals. Instead, decks would now have fewer and fewer cards in common; leading to a diverse and interesting meta, but higher barriers of entry for players looking to branch out.

Harsh Transitions

With every expansion, Team 5 is given the difficult task of creating balanced, interesting, flavourful cards that players will want to use lots of. This last part is key; the designers must push the envelope of power on each expansion if the cards they so lovingly added will ever get used. This is nothing new; but the addition of Standard rotation can lead to huge changes in the classes and cards that are competitive.

The best example of this is the transition from Mean Streets of Gadgetzan to Un’goro. Numerous entire archetypes were rendered obsolete by the rotation of Reno, leading to large amounts of transitional problems for players seeking a new main, as their Jarraxi, Inkmaster Solias and Razas became less than useful. Standard rotations, while necessary, can massively increase the cost burdens on players in this manner.

Feeling Expensive vs Being Expensive

No one would disagree that Hearthstone needs to attract paying customers if the game is to survive, grow and receive high-quality development resources. However, attracting and incentivising people to pay up to get that cool new Epic or Legendary isn’t helped by a progression system that feels stop-start and punishing. High-paying “Whales” are already strongly incentivised to pay for large numbers of packs to access the latest decks, niche legendaries or golden cards. More attention needs to be paid to the players who treat Hearthstone spending splurges as an occasional treat without pushing them over the cost threshold where they’d rather not play at all.

This doesn’t need to necessarily involve reducing costs or giving away free stuff. Instead, ensuring a strong, meaningful and fluid progression system rewards players who slowly improve a deck over time without having to splash out in one huge purchase would greatly encourage a long-term paying customer-base and more satisfied and entertained players. More meaningful stepping-stone decks and cards is key to this, allowing players to experiment and remain competitive without dipping into their life savings. After all, progression is the true heart of any CCG, and making that experience as fun and rewarding as possible is just as important as inculcating a healthy meta or compelling gameplay.

 

Title art courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com. Art by Joe Wilson

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

Artwork: Dany Orizio

Ruthless Deckbuilding – How to Cut Cards

We’ve all been there. You have exactly the cards you want in your latest deck; but suddenly someone comes along with a cool tech or genius inclusion that would work perfectly. The problem is, you only have 30 card slots. How do you make the painful decision of what card to cut?

The answer is rarely easy. Telling what cards are under-performing and what cards aren’t is a subtle challenge. Following these steps can help you figure out what can’t quite make it in.

Step One – Play the Deck (A lot)

Don’t try and improve a complicated deck like Miracle Rogue without understanding it first

Understanding how to tweak decks is largely dependent on understanding the deck itself. A fundamental knowledge of the structure and gameplan of the deck’s strategies is necessary to know how to optimize them. If you’re going to add cards, you need to know what cards will work with the strategy. It’s a common error to jump straight into a netdeck and try and make changes after a loss or two without experience with similar archetypes.

For instance, if you’re losing a lot as Taunt Warrior to Freeze Mage, a player who’s less experienced with the deck might assume that the best tech card would be the addition of an Eater of Secrets to punch through Ice Block; but someone who’s more experienced would recognize the superior power of an Armorsmith or two to generate burn-breaking armor. Similarly, a player who was unused to the gameplan of Midrange Hunter might consider adding a N’zoth for the sweet Savannah Highmane Synergy, unaware of the intense tempo focus of the deck.

Step Two – Differentiate Between “Core” and “Flex” Cards

Fiery War Axe should never be cut (unless you happen to be playing pre-nerf Patron Warrior)

Most decks have cards that are “core” to their strategies, cards that are instrumental to the implementation of their gameplan. Examples of this include N’zoth’s First Mate in Pirate Warrior, Kill Command in Midrange Hunter, Shadowstep in Crystal/Quest Rogue, and Ice Block in Freeze Mage. Cards like this aren’t simply strong, they define what makes the deck worth playing in the first place.

Flex cards can be harder to pin down. They are most easily defined as “Cards that are sometimes cut.” History can be your guide here; if you look back through previous incarnations of the archetype, see if the card was included. If at any point, without being replaced by a card with a similar function that no longer exists, it was voluntarily excluded from successful competitive lists, it would likely be considered a flex card. Examples of this can include meta-dependent tech cards like Acidic Swamp Ooze or Hungry Crab, but can easily include clunky, semi-synergistic choices. Think a second Gadgetzan in Jade Druid, Arcane Giants in Miracle Rogue, or Stampeding Kodo in Midrange Paladin. These are the cards that should be on your proverbial chopping block. (Note that the second copy of a card can be a flex spot while the first remains core; many Control Warriors would cut a single Brawl or Acolyte of Pain at certain points in the meta, but none would cut both copies).

Step Three – Watch your Matchups

Cards are rarely objectively superior to one another. Many cards could conceivably find a place in very many lists. The complications arise in when they are superior. A classic example is whether to play low cost or high cost cards. Low cost cards are usually superior in fast-paced board-centric matchups, as they can be played in vital early turns. Meanwhile, higher-cost cards allow you more late-game pressure and value to beat out heavier lists in long games. Through these sorts of trade-offs, you can precision-engineer the type of matchups you want to gain an edge in.

But what matchups should you focus, and how? Making the decision of what matchups to sacrifice and what to improve on can be tricky. As a rule of thumb, it’s generally best to try and improve your most common near-evenly favoured opponent. Since the games tend to be close, small edges can make a difference. When as a Taunt Warrior, it will take a lot to even occasionally win your matches against Jade Druid; however, a few key changes like a second Sleep with the Fishes can massively improve your winrate against a close matchup like Murloc Paladin.

Step Four – Notice the Boring

Just because Rockpool Hunter doesn’t feature in many Trolden videos, doesn’t make it worth cutting for an Equality

Sometimes our human perceptions and biases can hinder us. Take the instance of Kindly Grandmother and Deadly Shot in Midrange Hunter. Kindly Grandmother is rarely spectacular. It’s a slightly above-average two drop that enables certain beast synergies. Your opponent will not be defeated by Kindly Grandmother alone.

Meanwhile, Deadly Shot is almost always interesting and makes an impact. At three mana, it can snipe that vital minion or clear a taunt for lethal. Often you will pray to topdeck it, and it will obviously win you games. However, despite all this, Kindly Grandmother is almost always a better inclusion. Kindly Grandmother provides low key, reliable, non-situational tempo and a strong beast synergy activator. This is incredibly paramount in a deck reliant on curving out game after game. While Deadly Shot is far more flashy, the times when it sits in your hand or just hits a 1/1 can be hard to remember.

As such, it’s vital to try and think about your cards and review your games to determine when cards were “boring” but good, and “boring” and bad. Remembering only the flashy, unlikely, or impactful games will lead you to warped conclusions.

Step Five – Experiment

So you’ve got to know the deck, identified your flex slots, targeted a matchup or two you want to improve, and figured out that card that seems clunky or redundant to replace. Of course, you may be completely wrong! It’s important to test your lists thoroughly every time you make a change, and record your results. Don’t give up after just a few games and swap back either, as sample size is key. Keep playing until you’re sure how the change affects your winrates. With any luck, you’ve just made a good deck that little bit better; at least until the meta shifts again!

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alex!

Page 1 of 212