Art by Jaemin Kim, courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

The New 9th Class – The Future and Flavour of Warlock

Who knew that the class with the best hero power in the game would have the worst performance? After several weeks of the Journey to Un’Goro expansion, it’s becoming clear that one class is struggling more than any other. In the infamous words of Mike Donais, “When you list the nine classes in order, there will always be a class that is ninth.” In the post-Karazhan meta, that was Priest; now it is Warlock.

Since the rotation of Reno Jackson from Renolock, Controlling Warlock archetypes have suffered from a lack of survivability tools. The class lacks the lifegain and taunts of other control-oriented classes, and little to counter the life loss from tapping. Meanwhile, Zoo has struggled to gain early game tempo, and suffers from a proliferation of board clears and synergistic minion packages that can out-value or out-tempo them. Without any strong early or late-game archetypes, Warlock is sorely lacking many reasons to play it.

Tempo Troubles

Zoo has been a staple throughout the entirety of Hearthstone’s history. Playing efficient minions on curve early on, and continually refilling with Lifetap is a solid strategy. However, it’s one that has quickly become eclipsed. Synergistic minion packages have proved superior, and without early-game board control, Zoo struggles heavily. Warrior’s Pirates, Paladin’s Murlocs, Druid’s tokens, and Hunter’s Beasts can quickly out-tempo Warlock’s reliable, but less synergistic cards.

Disappointing Discards

Warlock’s new cards are heavily discard-focused; but the deck is too unreliable to be competitive

Across the past few expansions, most of Warlock’s synergies have been focused around the mechanic of Discarding cards. While this was initially competitive, the synergies have not held up over time. The Discard mechanic was promising, but ended up being too inconsistent and limiting to be truly defining for the class. It shut off all control strategies by discarding card advantage and tools, as well as being heavily RNG dependent both in effects and in drawing the perfect balance of discards and synergies. By going all-in on Discard synergies for Warlock’s early game, Team 5 unfortunately ended up pigeon-holing the class in a manner similar to Paladin in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan; over-reliant on a fundamentally weak mechanic.

There are two potential solutions to this; either Team 5 can double down on the discard mechanic and continue to support it with ever-more-powerful cards; or, create a new mechanic that minion-based early game Warlock decks can be built around.

Struggling to Survive

Outside of the Zoo archetype, Controlling versions of Warlock such as Handlock have struggled to find a niche. Whilst the new Humongous Razorleaf offered some hope, a fundamental fragility without the mass-heal of Reno has left the archetype weak and brittle; especially in a meta still dominated by Pirate Warrior and with new, burn-oriented mage lists rapidly proliferating. To make matters worse, the class suffers from a lack of non-AOE removal, with Siphon Soul and Blastcrystal Potion being hardly the epitome of tempo.

Flavourful Irrelevance?

Part of the problem is class identity. Warlock has always benefited from Neutral minions, with Antique Healbot and Reno being the two most obvious examples. They also benefited from hand-size synergies in Mountain Giant and Twilight Drake, and taunt generators and targets like Ancient Watcher and Defender of Argus. Unluckily for Warlock, Team 5 is refocusing on class identity, with deliberate rotation out and non-introduction of ubiquitous, generalized, powerful Neutral cards. This means that Warlock lacks the ability to shore up its weaknesses for a controlling game. But how is this rectified without ruining Warlock’s class identity?

Imagining a Future

Humongous Razorleaf wasn’t enough to keep Handlock viable without Reno

The fundamental contradiction of Control Warlock is that Control decks tend to require healing to be competitive. That gels rather poorly with the lore of Warlocks being power-mad, ruthless, self-damaging fel manipulators. But this contradiction can be solved. The answer lies in cards like the now-nerfed Molten Giant; cards that synergize with low life totals that can be used to improve survivability without being just boring heals. Currently, the way to beat Warlocks is pretty straightforward; hit them in the face enough and they crumble. That strategy should still be viable, but it should come at the risk of a huge comeback swing that can lock you out of the game. Recapturing the spirit of Handlock, one that thrives on the razor’s edge between victory and defeat, would go a long way to making Warlock both competitive and fun.

 

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Taunt Warriors: Please, Please, Mulligan your Quest (Sometimes)

As the Un’goro meta settles down, only two Quests are seeing serious competitive play: Rogue and Warrior. Whilst Rogue is completely dependent on the Quest for victories even against the most aggressive decks, Taunt Warrior has a far more flexible range of win conditions. As such, some of your most important decision-making comes before the game even begins. Should you keep the Quest?

Playing it safe

For many players, the answer is simple. The Quest is one of the strongest cards in the deck, around which the entire game plan is built. It’s a turn one play in a deck that typically will do nothing on turn one. If you mulligan it, you may never get to activate it if you draw it without having seven taunts left to play. This was particularly prevalent immediately after the expansion. With so much variation in the meta, you always have to be prepared for a Control matchup. I even recall seasoned veteran and far superior player Brian Kibler defending keeping the Quest against Hunter. His reasoning was that you needed the hero power to deal with Savannah Highmane.

An epidemic of greed

When playing versus Aggro, you don’t need the Quest to win

This outlook is understandable, but fundamentally flawed. As most players who have spent time with the deck and reached legend agree, keeping the Quest in every matchup is a disastrous policy. The hero power typically comes online only after turns 10-14 (assuming a typical 12 Taunt decklist). By this point, many games should already be decided. Not only that, but against Aggressive or Combo decks, you may not even want to play Sulfuras, as doing so prevents you form utilizing your potentially life-saving Armor Up. Meanwhile, being down a card the entire game is a potentially huge disadvantage, especially when you’re only a Ravaging Ghoul, Execute, or Brawl away from victory or defeat.

Throwing away your win condition

However, that’s not to say that the Quest should always be tossed. Not having the Quest when you need it is far worse than an unnecessary keep. Taunt Warrior cuts all the traditional game ending cards of Control Warrior, like Grommash and N’zoth. Even Fatigue is rarely an option without the insane armor gain potential of Justicar Trueheart. As such, Sulfuras is absolutely necessary in certain matchups. But how do you balance these two competing demands? Both can lead to disaster.

Class by class

DIE, INSECT is often necessary to beat late-game value powerhouses like Tirion

The answer is heavily dependent on what class, and thus what suspected archetype, your opponent is running. A typical rule of thumb would be to always mulligan it against Aggro, Combo, or aggressive Midrange, and keep it against Control or slow Midrange decks. However, the best option will change depending on specific matchups and meta-dependent archetype distribution.

  • Warrior: Keep

Warrior is one of the painful matchups when deciding to mulligan the Quest or not. Versus the hyper-aggressive Pirate Warrior, the Quest is worse than useless. However, in the Taunt Warrior mirror, it’s borderline suicide to toss it. Unfortunately, this means that keeping it is currently the best option. Though your Pirate Warrior win rate will suffer, it is still definitely winnable; whereas Taunt Warrior will crush you without a Quest.

  • Shaman: Keep

Shaman no longer has the explosive starts it used to. Even Murloc Shaman is relatively sedate. Elemental Shaman can easily drag you to fatigue, so getting the Ragnaros hero power online ASAP is often the difference between victory and defeat. Thus, keeping it is almost always the best option.

  • Rogue: Toss

It’s very tempting to keep the Quest against Rogue. However, it should be resisted whenever possible. Both Miracle Rogue and Quest Rogue’s key turns occur well before Sulfuras comes online. Fishing for key removal, board clears, or Dirty Rat is almost always superior. Even getting a turn three Acolyte of Pain down is far more important than getting the Quest completed, as card resources are so vital.

  • Paladin: Keep

While aggressive versions of Paladin are beginning to gain traction, the most popular archetype by far is still Midrange. You certainly need eight random damage as soon as you can to counter Paladin’s unceasing value train in the late game, and to allow you to end the game. While this may lead you to being rushed down by Murlocs, overall your win rate will likely improve.

  • Hunter: Toss

Hunter is a matchup where tossing the Quest will absolutely be the correct play. Their continual application of early and mid-game pressure requires the maximum possible amount of resources to defeat. Once you’ve stabilized behind a Primordial Drake or two, you can easily end the game by exploiting their lack of card draw. No eight damage hero power required.

  • Druid: Toss (Mostly)

The most dominant archetype of Druid being Aggro, tossing the Quest is usually a safe bet. However, there are a few Jade and Ramp Druids prowling about, so if you have a strong starting hand, consider keeping the Quest. Due to Warrior’s plethora of removal and AOE options, Aggro/Token Druid favors the Warrior, even with the Quest. Watch this space and see how the meta develops.

Against Freeze Mage, Armor can be more important than value

  • Warlock: Toss

There are few Warlocks out there, and it is widely regarded as the weakest class. Those that remain are largely running Zoo variants, against which the Quest is unnecessary. Tossing it should be an easy decision

  • Mage: List Dependent

Mage is a tough one. Since Freeze Mage and its variants are the most popular, keeping the Quest or not is often dependent on your own deck. Against Freeze, you typically have two strategies; grind them out with sheer life gain, or rush them down with minions and the Quest. If you’re running the double Shield Block package, it’s usually superior to go for the former option and toss the Quest; if not, you should apply the second strategy and keep the Quest.

  • Priest: Keep

Though this may change depending on how combo oriented the Combo Priest gets, usually you want to keep the Quest against Priest. Their late game can be formidable, especially if they Shadow Visions multiple Un’goro Packs from Elise Trailblazer. You need to put pressure on them fast. Ragnaros hero power is as much of a counter to Priest as Jaraxxus used to be, and you should play accordingly.

 

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The Return of Paladin – How to Buff a Class

The Dark Ages of Paladin

Anyfin allowed Paladin to avoid total irrelevance; barely.

Very few classes have been as consistently poor for such an extended period as Paladin. While others have admittedly been worse, notably Priest during Karazhan and Hunter during MSoG, none have had the continual drizzle of under-performing mediocrity drench them quite as completely as Paladin. From the moment Shielded Minibot, Muster for Battle, and Avenge rotated out to the release of Un’goro, Paladin has found itself without the tools necessary to survive in a cut-throat meta.

In Whispers of the Old Gods, an initially promising showing with N’zoth synergies was thwarted by a lack of early game tools. Then Karazhan’s rise of Midrange Shaman and a slower meta still suppressed Paladin due to their lack of board-clears and a fundamental weakness to Hex. MSoG hand buff experiments failed utterly, leaving the class bereft of resources in a meta defined by the early game power of pirates and the late-game dominance of Jades.

Out of the Dumpster

Things have improved massively in Un’goro. No longer cast to the wayside, Paladin holds its own with a variety of archetypes. Most promising of all is an old-school classic mid-range variant that looks to be gaining traction; using the early game springboard of Murlocs to carry it towards a formidable late-game powered by some of the most value-tastic 8 drops in the game.

Old-style mid-range Paladin is widely regarded as one of the “fairest” decks in the game. With respectable performance in all stages of the game, a small number of potent board clears, and a number of strong healing effects, mid-range Paladin is a jack-of-all-trades that doesn’t rest on one completely broken synergy or card but accrues value and tempo over a mid-lengthed game. One can imagine that if Hearthstone were ever given a “Yu-Gi-Oh” style TV series, mid-range Paladin would be the deck of the protagonist.

It’s hard to point to exactly what made Paladin go from nigh-unplayable to a solid choice in just one expansion. Unlike Dragon Priest before it, it got no single overpowered build-around. What made it its current state in such a balanced fashion?

Murlocs to the rescue

Rockpool Hunter is a key part of paladin’s new early-game package

Lore-wise Paladins are noble guardians of justice, with impressive shoulder-pads and an inextinguishable self-righteousness. As such, it’s a bit odd to see them dependent on the help of a group of terrorizing humanoid amphibians. But in terms of Hearthstone, they synergize perfectly. Murlocs theme of buffing tokens and one another is similar to the core class mechanics of Paladin. Not only that, but the new Un’goro set contained a number of cards that provide an unprecedented, but not overwhelmingly snowbally, boost to the Paladin early game toolkit.

Rockpool Hunter, Hydrologist, and Gentle Megasaur allow Paladin to have a solid start to almost every game. The minions aren’t too sticky and start out as non-threatening, but with the right combination of buffs and synergies can generate massive value. However, they’ll rarely end games on their own in the manner of an unanswered Tunnel Trogg. This forces other classes to interact with the Paladin’s early boards, making for a more consistent lead into the mid-game powerhouses of Truesilver Champion and Consecrate.

Shields Up!

Sunkeeper Tarim is a flexible and powerful tool that is often discovered off Stonehill Defender.

It isn’t just Murlocian early game power that’s fueling mid-range Paladin’s rise. Powerful mid/late game taunts have provided the beef to provide value and staying power throughout the later stages of the game. While traditional Paladin staple Tirion Fordring is as omnipresent as ever, Un’goro offers many new taunt options.

Stonehill Defender is now a staple, with its decent body that grants card advantage and stalls. But more importantly, Stonehill has an exceptional chance of offering a Paladin Class Legendary in Wickerflame Burnbristle, Tirion, or the new Sunkeeper Tarim. All of these are exceptional cards, especially to have duplicates of.

Sunkeeper Tarim himself has proven to be a nigh indispensable and ludicrously versatile tool. Beneficial on almost any board state, he can buff your tokens and neutralise your opponents threats, all while all but guaranteeing favourable trades with his 3/7 body. Meanwhile, Spike-ridged Steed is the buff Paladins didn’t know they needed. With 4/12 of taunted stats split across 2 bodies, Spikeridged can end the game vs aggressive decks and provides a nigh-insurmountable wall of HP to break through.

Troggs Tunnel no longer

But perhaps the most important positive impact for Paladin is a lack of the ubiquitous Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golems of Shaman. Tunnel Trogg is arguably the most powerful 1 drop ever printed – its strength and synergy demanding answering ASAP.

Paladin, as one of the classes without any kind of clean answer for this card, had to rely on the Unreliable Doomsayers or adopt a strategy built around mass-heals and end-game combos. This was a fatally flawed strategy in a meta filled with Hexes and mass board flood that Paladin couldn’t handle due to its lack of spot removal outside of Equality.

The absence of these cards gives Paladin the breathing room to adopt a more pro-active strategy without being bowled over in the first few turns. More than anything, this emphasizes how a class can be buffed by what cards don’t exist, as much as by cards that do.


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Why was the Hunter Quest so Overrated?

The aftermath of the Un’goro expansion is a flurry of ideas and exploration. Even Purify Priest and neoHandlock are fighting for their spot in the new meta. However, one much-vaunted card is seeing almost no play, even after intense initial testing: The Marsh Queen, AKA the Hunter Quest.

A few weeks ago, this would have been almost unthinkable. The Marsh Queen was hyped up as the new face of aggro. Propelled by optimistic public opinion, multiple glowing reviews from pro-players, like Trump and Lifecoach, players gleefully crafted Quest Hunter decks on day one of the expansion in droves. In retrospect, this seems ridiculously over-optimistic.

The tempo loss of running the quest, the inefficiencies of running an overload of one drops, and the underwhelming nature of shuffling 15 cycling 3/2s into your deck made for an overall disappointing experience. Replay data has the Hunter Quest at an abysmal 40% played winrate. The vastly superior, tried and tested Midrange Hunter ended up better in almost every way. But why did the pros and public get it so wrong?

The Quest looked easy to complete…

The Quest looked tempting with Hunter’s new one-drops

The Marsh Queen only requires that seven one-drop minions are played. This seems like an incredibly easy, almost trivial condition to satisfy. Most aggressive decks play a multitude of one-drops, and Hunter is often pushed towards this due to their aggressive hero power. Upping that slightly would fit neatly in the aggressive, board-floody gameplan of such a deck. Compared to the Quest for Rogue or Shaman, this seemed like completion would require little sacrifice on the deck-building side and not take too long. Right?

…but the time required and deck sacrifices were too steep

It’s true that the Hunter quest is an incredibly easy and fast one to complete. However, both “easy” and “fast” are relative concepts. First, let’s look at “easy.” Sure, stuffing a deck with one-drops can be a viable strategy. However, Hunter, without the reliable card draw of other classes, struggles to maintain the Zoo-style archetype. While Zoo can easily run a vast number of one-drops safe in the knowledge that lifetap can back them up later on, Hunter has had to rely on a higher curve or high density of direct damage to offset its cheap minions; neither of which allow the quest to be completed in a timely manner.

To make matters worse, the time restraint on a hyper-aggressive one-drop filled deck is far tighter for quest completion. While decks like Quest Warrior can leisurely complete their quest long past turn 10 and still stay in the game, a deck filled with one-drops will almost certainly be long doomed or already victorious by this point. Quest Hunter will run out of steam so fast that it’s almost a necessity the Quest be completed by turns 5-7. However, this requires a huge investment in one drop density that makes the rest of the deck decidedly weak and one-dimensional.

Carnassa’s Brood looked potent…

Looking back on the stream where The Marsh Queen was announced, it’s hard not to be impressed. The video shows the quest reward, Queen Carnassa, thrown down. On the immediate turn after, Tundra Rhino and no less than five Caranassa’s Brood following up. This looked spectacular and effective, and clearly captured the hearts and minds of the Hearthstone community. Carnassa’s Brood looked to have insane synergy with cards like Tundra Rhino, as well as working towards cycling through the low-cost deck of a Quest Hunter. On top of all that, plopping down a five mana 8/8 beast in Hunter is an extreme play.

…but the advantages were overstated

Tundra Rhino couldn’t make the Quest worth it

Carnassa’s Brood is a strong thing to have 15 of in your deck, for sure. While the card is individually strong, en masse it proved to be significantly underwhelming. For starters, the dream of chaining 3/2 into 3/2 rarely, if ever, came about. Shuffling 15 into your deck usually only gave you a sub-50% chance of drawing a Carnassa’s Brood. Typically, it meant that you were playing two one-drops a turn. While that is better than only playing one a turn, it’s nowhere near powerful enough to build around.

Quest’s tempo loss was seen as trivial…

Turn one is often a turn when nothing happens. With Tunnel Trogg rotating out, it was typically filled by patches and his piratical buddies, if at all. With the plethora of anti-pirate hate, like Tar Creeper and Golakka Crawler, printed for Un’goro, surely turn one would become less relevant? Or so the thinking went. The reality turned out very different.

…but it ended up being a massive setback

One-drops tend to be powerful cards. An initial tempo advantage gained by a good, impactful one-drop can be the difference between victory and defeat for almost all Aggro decks. However, the power level of one-drops falls precipitously after the initial turn. As such, filling your decks with one-drops, then giving up the most crucial turn they could be played, is inherently, and disastrously, anti-synergistic. Unfortunately for Quest Hunter, this proved too much for the deck as a whole. More than anything else, it made it far less effective than it was hyped up to be.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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A Guide to the Clutch Adapt

With Un’goro’s release merely hours away at the time of writing, it’s a good time to gain a better understanding of one of its key mechanics: Adapt. Adapt is a new keyword that gives your minions a chance to discover a choice between three of ten potential positive buffs. To refresh your memory, they are:

  • +3 Attack
  • +3 Health
  • +1/+1
  • Divine Shield
  • Windfury
  • Deathrattle: Summon two 1/1s
  • Stealth until your next turn
  • Can’t be targeted by spells or hero powers
  • Taunt
  • Poisonous

The scale and variety of options, each with a differing level of board impact, threat, value, and survivability, can make it hard to evaluate. Not to mention the discover mechanic can make it hard to visualize probabilities. To help out, I’ve put together four common strategies you want to fulfill with adapt, and how likely you are to pull it off (note: probabilities are rounded to nearest 5% for ease of remembrance).

Toughness for minion trading

Best outcomes (50% chance):
  • +3 Health
  • Divine Shield
Decent outcomes (30% chance):
  • +1/+1
  • Deathrattle: Summon 2 1/1s
All other outcomes (20% chance)

Ornery Direhorn is usually best with added defensive stats

This is probably the most likely situation to occur. You’re playing a larger minion into your opponent’s board, or dropping a minion and want to get pure value out of it, rather than ending the game. It’s not vital to dodge removal, you just want to make it as annoying as possible to kill.

The dream is usually +3 health or Divine Shield; these can add massively to the cards’ overall value, making it generally very tough for the opponent to remove. Combined, these two outcomes have a 50% chance at coming up as one of your three Adapt picks. +1/+1 or Deathrattle: summon 2 1/1s will sometimes be present when the “decent” aren’t (30% of the time to be exact). The remaining 20% of the time, you’ll be stuck with the relatively useless Stealth, Windfury, Poisonous, etc. However, these can still be useful in certain situations.

This is most likely to come up with cards like Ornery Direhorn, Thunder Lizard, and Verdant Longneck.

Power for immediate trading up

Best outcomes (50% Chance):
  • +3 attack
  • Poisonous
Decent Outcomes (20% chance):
  • +1/+1
All other outcomes (30% chance)

If you’re playing against a Hunter, there’s a good chance you’ll need to play around this card.

Best used for actively adapting a minion already in play, sometimes you want to trade up or threaten to trade up. The best outcomes are usually Poisonous or +3 attack, as each allows you to trade up amazingly efficiently; however +1/+1 can be good enough too. The first two options have a combined probability of 50%, but if you only need one damage, another 20% of the time +1/+1 will show up. The remaining 30% of the time you’ll be stuck with Divine Shield or Deathrattle: summon 2 1/1s as a consolation for the minion you were unable to kill.

This type of adapt is incredibly useful. As a a result, cards like Crackling Razormaw or the Paladin spell Adapt can swing early-game board control massively. For instance, you can turn your Alley Cat into a lethal removal tool, allowing you to gain huge value. It’s worth playing around this by not over-committing to high health Taunts that could be obliterated by a single Poisonous beast or Silver Hand Recruit.

Dodging removal

Best outcomes (50% chance):
  • Stealth until your next turn
  • Can’t be targeted by spells or hero powers
Decent outcomes (30% chance):
  • +3 health
  • Divine Shield
All other outcomes (20% chance)

Sometimes you just need to have something stick to end a game, but you know your opponent has that Hex, Execute, or Fireball. The best way to dodge these effects are with Stealth and Can’t be targeted, but these will occur only 50% of the time. In the meantime, you can take +3 health or Divine Shield for the 30% to decrease the odds of spot removal taking out your minion (though it won’t save you from hard removal!).

May be useful for any adapt minion.

Going for lethal

Best outcome (30% chance):
  • Windfury
Good outcome* (20% chance):
  • +3 attack

*May be better than Windfury on boards of low-attack minions.

Decent outcome (20% chance):
  •  +1/+1
All other outcomes (30% chance)

Not so gentle when a Murloc deck gets a four mana Bloodlust

Sometimes it’s best to just kill your opponent. Giving Windfury to a minion, all minions, or all murlocs, is a dream come true for pushing face damage. This has a 30% chance of occurring. Meanwhile, +3 attack also has a 30% chance (20% when Windfury is not an option). Finally, +1/+1 is less impressive, but still may be enough to end the game. Considering that these effects have a combined likelihood of 70%, it’s well worth playing around.

It is incredibly potent with Gentle Megasaur or Evolving Spores. It can also be useful with the Paladin card Adapt (though make sure you don’t give your Volcanosaur “can’t be targeted by spells or hero powers”).

Preventing lethal

Only relevant outcome (30% chance):
  • Taunt
All other outcomes (70% chance)

It’s probably not a good idea to rely on Adapt to gain a taunt. If you adapt once, you have only a 30% chance of being offered it. No other adapts offer immediate board impact to stop your opponent gaining lethal. Even with Volcanosaur’s or Ravenous Pterrodax’s two adapts, you only have a 50% chance to gain it. Still, it may save your skin in a clutch situation.

Just remember that it’s not necessary to double-taunt your Ornery Direhorn, though the BM value is impressive.

 

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com

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The Scariest Combos of Un’goro

For as long as card games have existed, players have combined cards in broken, degenerate ways. The imaginations and drives of a dedicated player-base will always exceed that of the developers, and as such new and exciting combos have the potential to break the game. Each new bout of cards offers new opportunities for exploitable shenanigans.
Hearthstone’s Journey to Un’goro expansion is no exception. More than perhaps any other expansion, there are a number of absurdly powerful combinations to create absurd situations, generate huge value, or simply kill your opponent.

Murloc Tidecaller and Rockpool Hunter

Murloc decks haven’t been too scary for a long time now. While the Finja package is in certain archetypes, full on tribal synergistic board-flood murlocs simply haven’t kept up with the growth of early game power. However, with the rotation out of Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem, they may be able to reestablish their place as the terror of the opening turns. Helping them is Rockpool Hunter, an incredibly strong card. Representing 3/4 of stats split across two bodies for two mana, it could snowball a one drop into a near insurmountable board advantage.

The most egregious of these on-curve plays would be Murloc Tidecaller into Rockpool Hunter. This creates a 3/3 and a 2/3 on turn two, which is perhaps better than Tunnel Trogg into Totem Golem, only with no overload in exchange for one less health. This could then be followed up with the nightmare of Murloc Warleader for a 3/3, a 6/3, and a 4/4 on turn three.

The ability of Murloc decks to generate huge early tempo and value with Rockpool Hunter might make them a very tempting option for certain classes, most notably Warlock and Shaman. The ability to buff the attack and health of high priority targets in the early and mid game shouldn’t be underestimated.

Jade Idol, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, and Earthen Scales

Jade Druid is a deck that has been dominating the hearts and minds, if not the statistics, of the Hearthstone world. Despite its overall poor showing, its ability to hard-counter certain types of control decks means it’s controversial to say the least. One of the counterplay mechanics against this deck, especially against Control and Midrange, is to simply rush them down or out-tempo them.

What Earthen Scales offers is an opportunity to turn the huge Jade Golems generated as part of a Gadgetzan Auctioneer turn, into a huge health advantage. With Auctioneer on Board, you even gain tempo with +1/+1 and draw a card. Meanwhile, you’ve forced your opponent to deal with your minions rather than your face. Earthen Scales is an extremely powerful combo tool that shores up Jade Druid’s weakness in a way that makes it potentially meta-dominating.

The Caverns Below, Fire Fly, and Igneous Elemental

 

Rogue’s new Quest seems hard to complete at first. The requirement of playing four minions with the same name seems to require a lot of effort to get to everything becoming a 5/5. However, things get a lot easier when you consider the new Elemental minions, Fire Fly and Igneous Elemental. These give you 1 and 2 1/2 Elementals respectively. This means that you simply need to draw two Igneous Elementals or one Igneous Elemental and two Fire Flys in order to activate the quest. Alternatively, you can just draw one Igneous Elemental, one Fire Fly, and a Shadowstep.

This makes it absurdly easy to activate the quest, leading to a turn four swing turn when you suddenly summon four 5/5s. This also means you can get other advantages, like not playing the quest on turn one, devoting the rest of your deck to more solid aggressive minions and spells instead of combo activators, and having more flexible activators for your end-game. A deck with Rogue’s almost uncompromised early game aggro, followed up by a Jaraxxus-like endless stream of 5/5s, after a huge early swing turn, could be potent indeed.

Time Warp, Arcane Giant, and Alexstrasza

Time Warp is one of those cards that stretches the limit of what’s possible. Its power is perhaps unrivaled by any card. It will likely break many cards and mechanics. One of the simplest of these involves playing two Arcane Giants, Time Warp, and then following up with Alexstrasza. This is one of the easiest one turn (or two turn, depending on how you look at it) kills in the game, requiring only four cards. Moreover, it promises to be exceedingly flexible, as Alexstrasza can be replaced with Fireballs if need be depending on the opponent’s life total.

Potentially more powerful kills exist, such as using Sorcerer’s Apprentices, Molten Reflections, and Archmage Antonidas to create infinite zero mana fireballs. However, this kill’s use of only four cards (one of which is guaranteed from the quest) makes it supremely reliable and consistent. It still can be countered though, most notably by taunt minions, Armor, and Dirty Rat.

Giving Mages a way to kill their opponent from nowhere is supremely powerful, as freeze mage has proven. Their arsenal of stall and board control tools makes them the ideal combo class for bursting the enemy down from 30 to zero over a turn or two.

Sulfuras and Auctionmaster Beardo

The ability for Auctionmaster Beardo to refresh the hero power on playing a spell is usually too low impact to be worth considering. However, that could all change if instead of gaining health, you’re tossing fireballs. With Warrior’s ability to have all of the upside of becoming Ragnaros without any of the armor-shredding or health-losing downsides, the option to cycle small spells and burst down the opponent seems very tempting.

Warrior has a slew of impactful low mana spells, even zero mana ones, leading to up to three hero powers with Beardo on the board. If Beardo manages to stick, they can almost certainly finish off any opponent.

Of course, getting to this position may be tricky. it may be more reliable simply to run additional taunt minions in order to activate the hero power a turn earlier than what would otherwise occur.

Carnassa’s Brood and Tundra Rhino

The Hunter Quest turned quite a few heads on its release. A five mana 8/8 is one thing, but filling your deck with one mana cycling 3/2s is potent indeed. Even more potent could be potential combos with Tundra Rhino.

By giving your Beasts Charge, Tundra Rhino could help turn the ever-cycling raptors into cannonballs to launch at the enemy face. You can easily generate massive damage and value if Rhino sticks, or as part of a combo turn. With a Stampede spell thrown in the mix, you can generate huge value in addition to killing the opponent.

The other route to go down is even more interesting. If you can play Hemet and Jungle Hunter prior to the quest reward, you could make your deck almost entirely raptors. This makes the combo far more consistent, as well as allowing you to easily draw through to your potent high-mana minions.

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com

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Elemental Synergies: Curvestone or Counterplay?

There are three main themes to the upcoming Journey to Un’goro expansion. Quests, Adapting dinosaurs, and Elementals all involve never before seen mechanics that may introduce new and exciting gameplay.

Unlike the more intricate Quests and unreliable Adapts, Elementals and their dependents have relatively straightforward activators. It is different than Murloc synergies, which require Murlocs on the board, or Dragon synergies, which revolve around keeping Dragons in the hand. Elemental synergies will be dependent on whether or not you’ve played an Elemental on the previous turn.

Powerful but slow?

Stoneshaper is powerful, but it can mess up Elemental sequencing. Perhaps promoting off-curve play?

The immediate impact of Elemental decks’ synergy requirements is a lack of explosive early game. Unlike Dragon Decks, which can get off a powerful overstated minion like Alexstrasza’s Champion, Twilight Whelp, or Wrymrest Agent simply by having a card in hand, Elemental decks require an Elemental played first. Furthermore, no powerful one or two mana Elemental synergy cards have been revealed yet. This means no overpowered minions coming down on turn one or two.

This means that Elemental decks may find it hard to commit to the aggressive strategies often favoured by Dragon variants, especially Dragon Warrior. While the synergies are minion-dependent, it revolves around using them in a steady stream that slowly ramps up in power; not by rushing them out as fast as possible.

Sequencing and skill

Elementals also offer a chance for players to test their strategic and tactical talents. Because each Elemental effect is completely dependent on what happens on the previous turn, inter-turn sequencing and managing resources is paramount.

Due to the power of Elemental-dependent minions that are not necessarily Elementals themselves, it will often be necessary to plan out turns well in advance. The strong but situational swings of Ozruk or Kalimos will require a careful manipulation of the board state for maximum benefit. All while having to commit in advance by playing Elemental resources.

Elemental counterplay

This also provides a massive opportunity for counterplay. Not playing an Elemental broadcasts a temporary inability to invoke the powerful synergistic effects. This allows both a hand read and a temporary freedom from being blown out by certain effects.

Players could even bait out tempting Elemental plays in advance, starving the opponent of resources with which to activate the synergies. All this provides more opportunity for interaction and counterplay by canny opponents.

Furthermore, the classes where Elementals are being pushed hardest are the ones with powerful spells. Shamans and Mages can make more decisions, and might focus harder on a few high quality Elemental minions. They could do this by weaving more spells into their gameplan. This would naturally synergize with the limited number of Elementals.

Same old Curvestone?

Draw RNG can make the impact of Blazecaller varied, and make wins more snowbally

Of course, this might just be over-optimistic theorycrafting. The realities of the brutal tempo-based gameplay of Hearthstone means that holding back combos for optimal use may not be viable. While it’s nice to imagine that the most skilled players will hold onto their most powerful Elementals for the perfect synergies, getting bodies on board and hoping you topdeck an enabler in the meantime might end up being the superior strategy.

This is compounded by the likely midrange style encouraged by the Elemental’s theme of anti-aggro, beefy minions. Follow that up with minion centered tempo swings. Such decks want to play their minions out as big and as fast as possible. This rarely leaves much room for card-draw; and less card-draw means less decision-making, as on any given turn fewer options will be available.

As such, any impact on the gameplan outside of traditional midrange decks will have to be taken with a grain of salt. Hearthstone will likely be very similar to how it’s always been for the decks that best utilize Elemental synergies.

A meta impact

Tar Creeper may be the bane of Pirate Warrior

One potential upside to Elemental decks may come outside of their playstyle. Many of the Elemental and Elemental synergistic cards are powerful anti-aggro taunt minions. This could cause problems for current meta tyrant, Pirate Warrior. A Tar Creeper or Tol’vir Stoneshaper is a tricky obstacle for Pirate Warrior to overcome at any stage of the game (to say nothing of Kalimos’ insane healing ability). Meanwhile, the ability to use cards like Blazecaller to play threats while removing enemy midrange minions might mean the deck would have the mid-game beef to take on Jade Druid.

However, as always, the true impact of Elemental decks is yet to be seen. Without any play-testing, it’s impossible to tell whether Elemental decks will even see any play. Whatever happens, it’s likely Shaman has received tools to survive, even in a world without Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem.

 

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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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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Towards a Less Boring Control Warrior

Old King Control

Control warrior has a long and illustrious history. In its original incarnation, it was full of late-game bombs and threats. A typical control warrior would seem absurdly greedy when compared to modern incarnations; often running Cairne, Sylvanas, Grommash, Ragnaros, Alexstrasza, and Ysera. Typically, it relied solely on a few low cost minions. Cards like Acolyte, Armorsmith, and the omnipresent Fiery War Axe for early game presence.

Looking back, the deck played completely different to its later strategies. Instead of being an almost entirely reactive deck aimed at victory through fatigue, they were looking to overwhelm the opponent with high powered legendaries.

This strategy was simpler in some ways; it lent itself to more straightforward games based on tempo, even against other control decks. Fatigue was rare compared to the likelihood of snowballing out of control.

Answers for Everything

Control Warrior was reduced from “Remove minions, gain armor, play threats” to just “Remove minions, gain armor”

Recently, Control Warrior attracts a very specific kind of complaint. As soon as a Twitch streamer queues into one, chat is often filled with emotes and complaints of boredom in anticipation of the upcoming game. The perception is that games against Control Warrior are tedious and uneventful.

The reason for this is pretty straightforward. Late-game Warrior decks will very frequently no longer depend on threats. Even high cost cards like Grommash and Deathwing, (as seen in the latest of Fibonacci’s lists) function largely as removal; this often omits even ultra slow “win conditions” like Elise Starseeker altogether. Instead, over-focus on a fatigue gameplan has lead to games where the Warrior focuses completely on survival and removal.

One-way Interaction

This, understandably, can prove to be less than engaging to opponents and viewers. While the Control Warrior’s plethora of reactive spells and lifegain is highly interactive with the opponents cards, playing against it can feel like a game of solitaire. Control Warrior rarely, if ever, play anything pro-active. As a result, it can often leave the impression of dropping minions into inevitable removal, while armor stacks up higher and higher.

This has a twofold impact. Firstly, games last for much longer than otherwise, as once the Control Warrior player has all but won, it can take dozens of turns to actually end the game. Secondly, the feeling of interaction against an opponent is minimized; they are simply playing whack-a-mole with your minions at a leisurely pace. Meanwhile, certain archetypes like Jade Druid are so unfavored that the games aren’t even worth playing out.

Old Gods to the Rescue?

These issues previously improved somewhat during the Whispers of the Old Gods release. Instead of relying almost entirely on fatigue, removal, and the odd random legendary-based Elise finisher, Control Warrior proved a fruitful home for two Old Gods in particular: C’thun and N’zoth.

Infested Tauren gave N’zoth Warrior’s mid-game some much-needed meat

These 10 mana finishers provided the potency required for such a huge investment to be worthwhile. Suddenly, games could end on a single well-placed series of snowballing tempo plays in the late-game, instead of fizzling outs. This additionally incentivized the inclusion of more defensive, midrange minions. That allowed Control Warrior to build boards to close out games without needing their key game-ender.

However, this gameplay style proved to be short-lived. Although potent, the many counters and deck-building limitations imposed meant that the archetypes couldn’t compete with the significant growth in decks’ power levels after One Night in Karazhan and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. The omnipresent Midrange shaman in particular, with the suppression power of Hex and requirement to find space for multiple board-clears, helped push Warrior back towards the Fatigue gameplan.

Even the threat of Jade decks hasn’t been enough to make Warrior try to compete with pro-active late-game strategies. Since Jade is so much more efficient than any pro-active play Warrior can make, the optimal solution has simply been to give up against Jade Druid. You want to run endless board clears to try and out-last Jade Shaman, playing reactive.

Gadgetzan’s Interactive Defenses

Alley Armorsmith is far more interactive than Warrior’s previous defensive tools

The Gadgetzan expansion hasn’t been all bad for Control Warrior. Alley Armorsmith is a perfect example of armor-gain for Warrior done right. Unlike the straightforward and not interactive Shieldmaiden or Justicar Trueheart, Alley Armorsmith is a pro-active defensive tool, that requires significant counterplay. As well as having chunky stats, the 2/7 taunt is far more effective in some situations than others. This makes it a perfect counter to low-attack minion or weapon based aggro decks, but still vulnerable to spells and high-attack minions.

Furthermore, Dirty Rat has rapidly grown into a class staple. Though it’s not possible to immediately interact with its battlecry, it is a card that is straightforward, yet deep to play around. It helps bridge the gap between Warrior and other late-game focused decks in a way that rewards skill and timing.

Hope in Un’goro

With Justicar Trueheart, Elise Starseeker, Bash, Revenge and other key components of the Fatigue strategy rotating out with the next expansion, the future looks bleak for Fatigue Warrior. If there is no suitable pro-active late-game raison d’etre for Warrior, then Control as an archetype may find it hard to find a niche in the new meta.

The introduction of “Quest” mechanics may still provide hope. Reliable, powerful, and available for every class, Quests may give Warrior the late-game win-condition it needs to compete. However, it depends on the card itself and whether the effect is one that is capable of giving Control Warrior the pressure needed to close out games.

Team 5 may print more Control-oriented Deathrattles. In that case, N’zoth Warrior may make a comeback as a potent counter to more midrange or controlling opponents.

The stars may even align, and Blizzard may try and succeed where Varian Wrynn failed. They could give Warrior an honest-to-goodness control-oriented class Legendary. We won’t hold our breath though. In the meantime, it can be fun to break open that Ysera, pack a deck full of Classic Legendaries with a few hard removals, and a Brawl or two. Or head out into Classic to relive the glory days of the oldest Control deck in the game.

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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Could Un’goro bring back Lifecoach?

 

Un’goro promises big fun dinosaurs, backed up by more interactive gameplay

In a recent vlog, pro player and streamer personality Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy announced that he’d be leaving the competitive scene. This was motivated primarily by his feelings about the game. His explanation is worth watching. Among the many points, the most salient was a feeling that skill in Hearthstone went unrewarded; that matchup and draw RNG decided the majority of games; and that it was fundamentally noncompetitive. He likens the Hearthstone experience to guiding a tossed coin mid-air, rather than making meaningful decisions.

That complaint might be somewhat ameliorated in the latest expansion announced for Hearthstone, Lost Secrets of Un’goro. Flavor-wise, Un’goro promises Dinosaurs, Elementals, and carnivorous plants. That’s exciting enough, but it’s the mechanics that could really shake up the way we play Hearthstone.

Double-edged Build-arounds

Hearthstone’s developers, Team 5, have been printing more and more “build-around” cards over the past few expansions. Starting with the much maligned Mysterious Challenger, developing with Reno Jackson, and culminating in the Old Gods, “Build-arounds” share common characteristics. They tend to generate value far exceeding their mana cost, but require a dependency on certain types of cards or deck-building strategies.

Reno decks do poorly without drawing him

The benefits of build-arounds to the game are clear; they incentivise combinations, playstyles and synergies that would otherwise not be viable. Reno and Kazakus encourage variety and a slower-paced playstyle with Highlander decks. Drakonid Operative almost single-handedly makes Dragon Priest competitive; N’zoth makes Deathrattles into a game-ending board.

The downside is that the deck’s inherent inconsistencies due to running sub-optimal synergy cards are only balanced when the overpowered build-around is drawn. Reno Jackson may be the most powerful heal in the game. But forcing aggro matchups to be almost entirely dependent on whether or not he is drawn in time is hardly healthy. Anybody can tell you about the frustration of having a key card on the bottom of your deck.

Adventures in Questing

Un’Goro seeks to build on build-arounds and improve them with the inclusion of “Quests”. Quests are Legendary, class-specific spells that cost one mana. Once played, they act as a secret. Once their condition is activated, you are granted a powerful card. It is promised to be “some of the most powerful cards in Hearthstone” in the announcement video. The example we are given is the Priest quest, which grants a five mana 8/8 that sets your hero’s health to 40. This is only if you can meet the difficult condition of summoning seven deathrattle minions.

Quests are guaranteed to be in your starting hand

So far, so standard. Where these Quests get interesting is that they are guaranteed to be a part of your initial mulligan. Though they can be mulliganed away in matchups where the Quest is undesirable, this grants them an unrivaled consistency in activation, if your deck is built to accommodate them.

This can massively help the feelings of card-draw RNG overly affecting matchups. Instead of auto-losing the matches where your build-arounds are in your last five cards, Quests can be reliably activated. Not only that, but their potentially game-ending effects can be planned for in advance, as you see your opponent’s Quest ticker get gradually higher.

Though further judgement must be withheld until the exact nature of the cards are revealed, this alone is a highly promising sign for reducing feelings of helplessness in the face of bad luck.

Midrange and Curvestone

Midrange has always had a problem in Hearthstone. The archetype is fundamentally reliant on curving out with efficiently-statted minions. Only occasionally do we see usage of reactive spells and off-curve plays. For much of Hearthstone’s history, Midrange has been lamented as simply taking obvious trades and dropping the biggest on-curve minion each turn. While professional players can eke out additional wins by optimizing some decisions, the majority of choices are very straightforward.

There are numerous downsides to rewarding this type of play experience. It sidelines skill, makes draw RNG more paramount, and makes games feel exceedingly similar. Attempts to spice things up, with mechanics like Inspire and Discover, have only partially succeeded. While recent Midrange tyrants like Shaman have managed to avoid this due to a reliance on hero-powering and spells, the problem remains endemic to almost all pro-active, non-aggro decks.

Adapting Micro-decisions

A core element of the Un’goro expansion is the “Adapt” keyword. Applied to minions, it allows cards to gain additional stats or effects when played or meeting a condition. Themed around the elemental influences of the crater, this can give your minion +3 attack, Divine Shield, Windfury, or other effects as chosen via a discover-like interface. By choosing the right adapt effect for the board state, you can tune your minions for the matchup and situation you’re presented with.

Adapt offers small but meaningful buffs

While spawning two extra 1/1s or gaining Taunt may not seem an incredibly exciting proposition, the impact on play may be huge. When every minion played results in a decision being made, play becomes fundamentally more engaging and skill-testing. Dropping big stuff on curve will still be important. But it’s possible that the best players can gain a huge edge by tuning their minions perfectly on the fly.

While we’ve only seen a few examples so far, the opportunity for Adapt to make a big impact should excite you if you’re someone who enjoys playing midrange decks and cares about reaching higher levels of play.

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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