An Impassioned, Possibly Misguided Defense of Explore Un’goro

Exploring the possibilities

Hearthstone’s latest expansion, Journey to Un’goro, is out in early April. With its outlandish setting, the expansion promises mechanics and cards that already could have immense potential. But it’s a jokey, “meme” card that was given to Warrior that has caught my attention: Explore Un’goro.

For those who haven’t had a chance to watch the card reveal livestream, the second batch of Un’goro cards have been revealed. The first of them was a card called Explore Un’goro. The card is deceptively simple; a two mana Warrior spell that replaces every card remaining in your deck with a one mana spell that discovers a card.

Could this card revolutionize Control Warrior? (Probably not, but I’ll make the case regardless)

 

Evaluating Explorrior

Are comparisons to Renounce Darkness unfair?

Most impressions of the card have been that it’s a fun, jokey, but ultimately non competitive card. Obvious comparisons between it and Renounce Darkness were made, along with Elise Starseeker. Overall, the consensus is that it’s inferior to both. It was even introduced on-stream as being a non competitive card, designed to allow a particular kind of player to have fun.

Jeffrey “Trump” Shih, for instance, calls it worse than Renounce Darkness, and points to people not running one mana discover cards. Meanwhile, he cites the lack of transforming cards in your hand and absence of shuffling a card into your deck as evidence of being an inferior Elise.

Those analyses have some merit; but there’s still a strong argument that Explore Un’goro is fundamentally different. In fact, there’s a decent chance that it will define a whole new archetype.

Late-game, not end-game

Elise Starseeker’s Golden Monkey is a strong but slow win condition

The first and obvious distinction to make is that Explore Un’goro is not a fatigue win condition as with Elise. Or at least, it is not primarily a fatigue win condition like Elise. Elise’s effect is Fatigue-oriented by necessity. This is especially important in a world of Jade Idols and Kazakuses, where fatigue has almost entirely disappeared as a win condition. Discover Un’goro has the potential to pump out threats as soon as you play it and draw a card. Furthermore, it can be played as a two of, unlike the Legendary Elise.

Regardless, it’s still a late-game effect. The requirement to spend a mana before discovering each card makes for a necessarily slow effect. You’d play this card for its value generation potential. It would have the same effect as Elise (transitioning from a reactive game-plan to a pro-active one), but would be able to take effect much faster.

Explore Un’goro is also superior in many respects to the effect of the Golden Monkey due to not transforming cards in hand, only cards in the deck. You can save that Brawl, Execute, or Grommash for the opponent’s N’zoth, Ragnaros, or Jaraxxus while still applying pressure and generating value.

More than a meme

Renounce Darkness, or “Renounce Dankness” as it is affectionately known, is the easiest card to directly compare to Explore Un’goro. The comparison is fundamentally misleading though. For one, Renounce relies on having a high number of Warlock class cards. These tend to be weak when trying to execute the control-into-midrange strategy the card represents. The advantage of Renounce is the ability to keep your neutrals unaffected; but Neutral cards tend to be pro-active minions anyway, rendering the strategy pointless. Finally, Warlocks give up their most potent late-game advantage, the Life-tap hero power. In return, you’d get a load of discounted, potentially useless cards.

Explore Un’goro, by contrast, has no deckbuilding requirements. No matter what your deck contains, Explore Un’goro will replace it. What’s more, Warrior is already adept at executing the early-game control strategy. It only struggles when trying to out-value other decks in the late-game. This situation, only exacerbated by Elise and Justicar rotating out, will be a perfect role for Explore Un’goro to fill.

On a more general basis, the whole point of transforming your deck is to go from a reactive early game to a proactive late game. In this, the flexibility offered by Discover and Warrior’s early-game strength will be instrumental.

Don’t judge the card, judge the deck

A test decklist, sans Explore Un’goro of course

You can’t evaluate Explore Un’goro like most cards. Explore Un’goro will only be as good or as bad as the deck it defines. What would such a deck look like?

Of course, any theory-crafting now is largely irrelevant. Any meta calls are likely off by a wide margin. The Warrior Quest in particular could fundamentally change how the deck is built. Moreover, the new Un’goro meta would determine tech choices and overall viability. However, as a thought experiment, it’s worthwhile to see the kind of deck it might find a home in.

Explore Un’goro itself is a late-game tool, so early game should be the emphasis here. Going aggro and proactive is largely pointless, as such decks want burst finishers more than value discovers in the late-game. The deck should be a heavily early-game focused Control deck.

This already seems promising. Warrior has arguably the best early Control tools in Hearthstone. Fiery War Axe, Blood to Ichor, and Ravaging Ghoul are perfect for countering and controlling the early-game board development of aggro and midrange. Meanwhile, defensive taunts like Alley Armorsmith and Bloodhoof Brave lock down the mid-game. Furthermore, spot removals like Execute and Shield Slam can take out key threats. Brawl acts as an emergency clear when these aren’t enough.

The final ingredient should be draw, as we want to actually get to our Explore Un’goros. This is also a perfect excuse to include Gadgetzan Auctioneer; allowing us to draw multiple cards immediately after playing Explore Un’goro.

The gameplan

Warrior Epics can be hit or miss. Some completely flop…

This deck would strongly counter all early-game attacks with its bevy of early-game tools. After wiping out early minions with ease and dropping a few solid taunts, it draws consistently with Acolyte, Slam, and Shield Slam. The first few of the opponent’s big threats are swatted away with powerful hard removal. Just as it’s looking to run out of steam, Explore Un’goro is played, along with the last Taunt minion. The next turn, Gadgetzan Auctioneer hits the board, and four cards are instantly drawn with discover effects. The Warrior then drops threat after threat, answering specific cards with the limited resources remaining from its original hand.

Eventually, the opponent cannot hold back the constant pressure, taking a risky play. This could then be punished by the Warrior’s remaining or discovered answers. The following turn, they are beat down by the Warrior’s board of fat minions.

Good on paper?

…but some redefine what the class can do

Is such a deck good? It’s hard to tell. It would likely suffer from a lack of mid-game tools (particularly with Sylvanas rotating out). Any deck that could transform the tempo loss in between early-game answers and late-game Explore combos would likely be favored. But against many other types of decks, it’s hard to see too many flaws in the gameplan. The ability to swap almost all late-game for two Gadgetzan Auctioneers and two Explore Un’goros is potent indeed.

If one thing is certain, it’s that you can’t rule out Explore Un’goro too quickly. It’s notoriously common to mis-evaluate build-arounds (Mysterious Challenger anyone?), and this may just be another example of that. After all, another seemingly unplayable Warrior Epic in Blood Warriors created a new archetype that was even taken to Blizzcon (albeit unsuccessfully).

Whether it’s a Tentacles for Arms or a Blood Warriors, keep a close eye on this card. It just might be the new face of Warrior.

 

 

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

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While NFL Ratings Are Down, Other Issues Draw Our Attention

Recent news sources have indicated that NFL television ratings are significantly down – 11% in fact – throughout the first six weeks of the season.  While the reasoning behind this shift in viewership may seem apparent, there are multiple possible theories.

The obvious rationalization for this decrease in NFL ratings stems from the current presidential election that’s taking place.  And you might think to yourself, “Gee, a presidential election happens every four years, so how come the ratings don’t drop during every election?”  It’s a sound question, but it’s answered and summed up with three words: Trump and Clinton.  We haven’t had a presidential showdown quite like this.  I can’t recall another presidential debate in my short 21 years in this country that featured two candidates as polarizing as these two, and I bet many older adults would agree with me.

On the one hand, you have an unbelievably boisterous, blunt, and somewhat too-honest man in Donald Trump, and on the other, you have the first female primary winner who’s often accused of delusional motives, corrupt tendencies, and lies in Hillary Clinton.  With a drama-filled race to POTUS, who would have time to tune into a football game?

Image result for clinton trump

Speaking of drama, the NFL is remaining relatively drama-free through these first six weeks compared to previous seasons.  There’s no controversial rule change.  Native American imagery in sports is less of a major topic right now.  There’s no reported cases of rape, domestic abuse, or homicide.  Peyton Manning retired.  Tom Brady didn’t play in the first four games.  Everything is subdued in the NFL right now and it’s a quiet season as far as drama is concerned.  People like drama; that’s how the Bravo TV channel stays in business.  And right now the drama lies in politics.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some drama, but the drama in the NFL today would, if anything, turn off viewers.  I’m referring to controversial rules such as penalizing players for creative celebrations.  In fact, there have frequently been questionable officiating calls in general this season.  Not too many fans like seeing a 15-yard penalty enforced on their respective team for doing a seemingly innocent touchdown dance.  And not too many fans like seeing their team penalized for tapping their opponent’s quarterback in the head lightly.

Image result for antonio brown celebration gif

Then there’s a little thing called Netflix, which takes over many of my friends’ lives.  If our heads are glued to a computer screen there’s no way the NFL can compete.

One also has to wonder if violent football culture is starting to turn a few heads, literally.  Perhaps sports fans are getting repulsed by witnessing injury after injury, blow after blow, and concussion after concussion.  At the end of each year it seems there’s at least one or two more ex-NFL players chiming in about lingering side effects from the brutish nature of the game.

And finally, it would appear that as time goes by, people are bringing awareness to arising global, social, and economic problems.  Political correctness has also drawn our attention.  Football has been around for several decades now, so whether it be modern day concussion protocol, black lives matter, or feminism, activists and minorities are heard now more than ever, and pinpointing areas of concern.  We can only focus our efforts on so many problems that football might remain on the back burner until these conflicts are resolved.

Whatever the reasoning may be, 11% is rather eye-opening.  It’s still very early to tell, but should this decline in ratings continue, the NFL may attempt to commercialize the league even more, endorse products, and sell more apparel.  Football is America’s game and if ratings don’t increase over the course of the season, baseball and basketball might climb the ranks of America’s most popular sports.