Time is relentless in its passing, and as we emerge, bleary eyed into 2017, we must remember how much is temporary. Friends, relationships, treasured possessions; all are fleeting.
But perhaps none is more heart-wrenching than when a treasured class card rotates out of Standard. Once steadfast, seemingly eternal classics like Death’s Bite or Muster for Battle melt away to frolic in the Elysium of Wild. Now might be a good time to reflect on the well-designed, flavorful, and fun cards that’ll be culled this coming rotation. The rotating sets are Blackrock Mountain (BRM), The Grand Tournament (TGT) and League of Explorers (LOE).
Warrior: Revenge (BRM)
Revenge seems underwhelming for a card that has seen a home in almost all Control Warrior decks (and many other variants beside). Key to its success is its insane ability to punish aggressive decks. The double whammy of being stronger when your hero is below 13 health and clearing out almost all Aggro minions has meant its an invaluable tool; not to mention its powerful synergies with Acolyte of Pain, Execute, and more. It was key to Warrior’s power as a counter-deck in the Karazahn midrange shaman meta, and still sees use to clear out pirates and tokens. Hopefully warrior sees more flexible, cheap AOE to complement its repertoire and allow it to stave off the Aggro hordes.
Shaman: Healing Wave (TGT)
Healing wave is pretty much the benchmark for how strong, flexible, and mana efficient lifegain should be. One of the only worthwhile Joust-based cards, it (along with its buddy Elemental Destruction) breathed new life into the then-struggling shaman class. The synergy with high-cost minions helped push the “Bogchamp” or “Crusher” archetype in certain metas, making the entire Shaman class more flexible and interesting in a way far different to its current SMOrcey outlook. Jinyu Waterspeaker seems like an adequate replacement for now, but true control archetypes could benefit from more of this level of power-heal.
Rogue: Tomb Pillager (LOE)
Tomb Pillager is, to me, one of the best designed Rogue cards ever released. While its power level is high, it was perfect for a then-ailing class. It’s flavourful, synergistic and class-appropriate, and almost single-handedly lead to the revitalization of the Miracle archetype. The coins it spawns can smooth out curves, of course; but more importantly can combo perfectly with Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Questing Adventurer and Edwin Van Cleef. It even revives in the little-played N’zoth Rogue. Hopefully Counterfeit Coin and Burgly Bully will be able to at least partially fill the hole this powerhouse leaves.
Paladin: Anyfin Can Happen (LOE)
Paladin always struggled for ways to finish games. With limited hard removal and board-clears, sheer value with cards like Tirion often wasn’t enough to last into the late-game. This somewhat pushed it towards a midrange strategy, with an inevitable tendency to run out of steam. Anyfin changed all that, and is arguably one of the most powerful single cards outside of the Old Gods. With a lethal complement of Bluegills and Warleaders, Anyfin will deal huge damage with the right setup and can OTK almost any deck. It’s so powerful, it spawned an entire deck focused around surviving to play these game-ending murlocs (and is the only semi-viable Paladin deck currently). Here’s hoping the class gets a similarly potent game-ending ability in the future.
Hunter: Quick Shot (BRM)
Hunter suffers from two main flaws: inflexibility, and card draw. Quick Shot managed to partially address both while remaining true to the class’s identity. By being a strong removal or face damage tool while rewarding an all-in strategy, Quick Shot allowed Hunter much-needed reach as well as board control. Above pure power, it provided interesting strategy as to when to hold it to cycle, when to push face damage, and when to remove key minions. Many more cards like this will need to be printed if Hunter is to do well in a meta that has grown far more powerful than its outdated tools can handle.
Druid: Living Roots (TGT)
With few comeback mechanics, Druid desperately needs to prevent snowballing. Living Roots slots into that perfectly. While each of the effects on their own are nothing to write home about, the option of each makes this card an auto-include in virtually all Druid decks. It has synergy with Spellpower, mass-buffs, and Fandral Staghelm, as well as fitting nicely into class identity. Plus, the saplings are cute as heck. Hopefully Druid receives similarly flexible early options to help it to survive the explosive starts of Aggro.
Warlock: Dreadsteed (TGT)
Dreadsteed is one of those cards that you hate to see leave, but that inevitably must. Its infinitely regenerating effect is so close to being broken, its very existence prevents the printing of a lot of interesting cards. Too slow to see play outside of gimmicky synergy decks, it created so many interesting scenarios and combos. It is hard to see this card go. Still, this is a card that the Wild format was essentially invented for. In the future, Team 5 could do well by remembering the fun to be had by giving classes weak cards with potentially crazy synergy.
Mage: Forgotten Torch (LOE)
Forgotten Torch is one of those rare cards that looks like it’s too slow to see play, but is in fact just in the sweet spot of good early-game vs. good late-game. Three damage for three mana is nothing to write home about, but it a valuable tool for clearing up early-game threats. But it’s the three mana six damage “Roaring Torch” that truly makes this card great, and interesting. It was a principle motivator behind keeping Freeze Mage alive, allowing them to control the board early while helping assemble a final burn-based combo. Lately its been a vital early game weapon in the Reno Mage arsenal, improving win-rates vs. aggro and control alike. As a class based on powerful spells, Mage deserves more cards like Forgotten Torch.
Priest: Entomb (LOE)
Priest: Flash Heal (TGT)
While the ability of Priest to heal any target was inherently limited by the ability of Auchenai Soulpriest to send the damage facewards, Flash Heal was about as strong as it could have been. While normally reserved to combo with the aforementioned 4 mana minion to use as a five damage combo piece, it was powerful as a clutch lifegain or minion-healing tool; not to mention its niche but spectacular finisher as part of some kind of Prophet Velen-based combo. Cheap, flexible spells are key to any reactive, combo-oriented class like Priest, and the class needs more simple but deep examples of this.