It’s hard to believe it was only a few short months ago when Warlock was the undisputed worst class in the game. Knights of the Frozen Throne changed all that, and a huge part of that was Defile. This 2 mana spell is aggressively under-costed, with a ridiculous amount of utility on the right board. Its ability to repeat 1 damage AOE makes Defile a feared anti-aggro clear.
Now Warrior looks to be in a similar spot to Warlock last year as among the worst classes. And like Warlock, Warrior is getting a 2 mana repeatable 1 damage AOE spell in the new Witchwood expansion. But will Warpath do to Warrior what Defile did to Warlock?
Efficiency versus reliability
Defile and Warpath are essentially the same effect but with different requirements. Defile repeats its effect if a minion dies, meaning that a canny player can set up chains minions in ascending order of health. This is especially potent against aggro decks, with their plethora of low-health minions. In the right circumstances, Warlock can clear massive boards with high health minions for only 2 mana. However, this requires setup, and can potentially be played around.
Warpath, on the other hand, trades this supremely potent ceiling with a solid reliability that is more expensive. Additional triggers are always available, but only if the Warrior spends a further 2 mana each time. This can quickly add up. One trigger is simply a 2 mana Whirlwind, comparable with the very playable Revenge from Blackrock Mountain, and two triggers compares reasonably with Consecration.
However, three triggers for 6 mana looks poor compared to Hellfire, and 4 and 5 triggers look uninspiring compared to Flamestrike and Dragonfire potion respectively. In terms of pure board clear potential, Warpath will rarely be stellar; but will be far more reliable and harder to play around than Defile.
Synergies and support
One edge Warpath can have over Defile would be Warrior’s greater potential for minion synergies. Warlock typically runs very few minions that synergise with repeated on damage effects (unless you count Howlfiend), so Defile is typically used just to clear. Warrior, on the other hand, has numerous potential synergies. As well as Classic minions in Armorsmith, Frothing Beserker and Acolyte of Pain, there are also spells like Sudden Genesis or Battle Rage. In Wild, there will be huge potential to combo it with cards like Grim Patron, Sleep with the Fishes or Arcane Giants with Blood Warriors.
It’s also worth mentioning that Warrior lacks a lot of the support cards to make Defile so powerful. Defile clears often rely on dealing damage with trades and spells to set up clears. Warlock accomplishes this with cheap or sticky minions like Kobold Librarian and Voidlord, or with powerful damage spells like Amethyst Spellstone.
Warrior on the other hand has few efficient cheap or sticky minions, and its removal spells are usually hard removals in Shield Slam, Execute and Brawl. As such, setting up Defile-style clears would be much harder with the Warrior toolset.
What’s more, playing around Defile often plays into other Warlock clears like Hellfire or Twisting Nether; clears that Warrior doesn’t have access to. Defile would also be less necessary for Warrior than Defile is in Warlock; Warrior already has a great many ways of sweeping up wide boards of small-medium sized minions.
To each their own?
It’s unlikely that Warpath will be as strong as Defile is in Warlock. Its sheer efficiency and support from other Warlock cards makes it one of the best cards in the game.
But there’s a decent chance that Warpath will be stronger than Defile would be in Warrior.
Warrior would struggle to utilise the idiosyncratic set of requirements Defile requires, and doesn’t need it in the same way Warlock does. But Warpath’s reliability and and flexibility could be exactly what Warrior needs. This uncomplicated scaling clear can allow Warriors to slowly but surely wrest control of the game.
It’ll also make utilising the class’s many synergies far easier. All in all, Warpath should be a more than worthy replacement for existing Warrior staples like Sleep with the Fishes and Ravaging Ghoul. Here’s hoping the rest of the set will open up as many opportunities for the ailing class.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.