It’s always unfortunate to see archetype-defining cards leave Standard, and Coldlight oracle is no exception. It is one of the most unique and situationally powerful cards in the game. Unfortunately, its design space limitations are simply too much for the upcoming Year of the Raven. So why does this iconic Murloc need to be rotated out?
Coldlight is unique among Classic neutrals; it’s the only unconditional draw effect that does more than simply cycle itself. Though it’s famous for its mill applications, certain decks simply want draw that bad. Quest Mage was a prime example. Despite being entirely committed to a combo gameplan, it wanted cards so badly Coldlight was more than worthwhile.
Other Neutral draw engines like Acolyte of Pain, Cultmaster or Gadgetzan Auctioneer require far more setup, mana and deck support to draw; limiting their abusability. Coldlight is happy in any combo deck that doesn’t care about the opponent’s hand size, even with no support or synergy. That level of unconditional potential was evidently far greater than Blizzard is comfortable with. As such, it’s likely better off in Wild.
Another design space limitation for Coldlight is how it interacts with Battlecry and return-to-hand effects. Back when Brann was around, Mill Rogue was almost a legitimate threat on ladder. The sheer impact of Coldlight’s battlecry is one part of this; but there is also the self synergy. As anyone who plays mill or fatigue decks will tell you, Coldlight is at its most devastatingly effective when its played repeatedly in the same turn. Making your opponent draw 3 cards a turn is nice, but making them draw 11 cards at once will burn huge portions of their deck, if not simply fatiguing them.
Because Coldlight’s power scales exponentially with itself, giving non-Rogue classes cheap bounce or battlecry synergy could lead to oppressively powerful Mill decks. To allow these potential cards to be introduced, Coldlight should take a back seat.
A non-interactive tool
Let’s not even pretend that Coldlight was an especially interesting Mill card. Its effect was powerful and unique, sure. But the effect is linear and straightforward, with no interesting synergies beyond battlecry effects. Especially with Dirty Rat rotating out, there’s almost nothing that can be done to interact with a Coldlight combo.
To make matters worse, its very existence prevents the printing of more interesting Standard mill tools, for fear of making the archetype oppressive. By rotating Coldlight out of Standard, Blizzard have created the opportunity for interactive mill tools that create far more compelling gameplay situations than a simple 2/2.
A replacement Coldlight
If there’s one thing Blizzard should learn from the history of Coldlight Oracle, it’s that decks with non-standard win-conditions are fascinating and fun. Playing against or with Mill decks is a rare treat in Hearthstone, and one that could quickly become frustrating if it were too common. Blizzard have the unenviable task of toeing the line between destroying a unique archetype and creating a monster.
Hopefully, the loss of Coldlight from standard will open the way for cards just strong enough to keep Mill kicking, without causing it to utterly take over ladder. At least, not until we can see burned cards in the history bar.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.
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