For the first time in the class’ history, Warrior is well and truly in the dumpster. With historically low play and win rates on ladder, the War Axe nerf’s impact has been staggering. Clearly, the class will need additional early game tools in order to remain relevant in future expansions. But what should warrior’s replacement 2 drops look like?
Warrior has a number of other viable turn 2 options. Unfortunately, none of them are on par with other classes’ options, or can be a viable successor to the “Win Axe”.
Armorsmith is a decent anti-aggro option, but can’t generate board control against anything with more than one attack. Cruel Taskmaster is similarly weak, with the added caveat of being more niche. Heroic Strike could, theoretically, be used as a removal as well as a burst tool, though that has never turned out well in anything other than aggro decks. And Slam can almost never get a card draw and lead to a minion being killed on 2.
The common theme of these cards is not that they aren’t useful, it’s just that they lack efficiency and value. Warrior could afford to run niche cards thanks to the supreme early efficiency of War Axe; without it, they’re left with nothing that can efficiently fight for board without expending too many resources. In order to fix this, Blizzard could look to a number of other classes for inspiration.
One of the most impactful 2 drops in recent memory has been Mage’s Arcanologist. With a powerful synergistic battlecry, it paved the way for a variety of Control, Tempo and Freeze Mages. It’s battlecry meant that despite being a relatively unimpactful two-drop, it generated card advantage while fighting for the board.
Obviously, Warrior can’t just copy Arcanologist; the class has no secrets. And an Arcanologist for Weapons would likely be both slightly too strong and too aggressive. A better option might be s 2 cost minion that draws an Armor-gain or Armor-synergy card from your deck; rewarding more controlling warrior, and ones that play around with lifegain.
Another impactful 2 drop to copy from could be Razorpetal Lasher. This unassuming 2/2 can generate surprising value from the 1 mana 1 damage spell it adds to your hand. With Warrior’s surplus of low-impact spells, there’s plenty of inspiration to give Warrior’s a similar effect. Perhaps a 2 mana 2/2 that added a 1 mana version of “Inner Rage” to your hand. Alternatively, something that added “Charge”.
Even better, Warrior could take an idea from Warlock’s Dark Peddler and Paladin’s Hydrologist. Discover mechanics on cheap cards can be potent without feeling unfair. Warrior’s low impact 1 mana spells could see a lot more play if discovered off some cheap minion. What’s more, most of these low-impact spells are reactive and situational, making for more interesting gameplay situations and skill tests.
Of course, Team 5 nerfed Fiery War Axe for a reason. They can’t now print an Epic 2 mana 3/2 weapon (we hope). But we may see cards along the lines of Jade Claws; strong weapons that while not quite at the same power level, still fight for early board well. The danger of re-creating pirate warrior might prevent this until after Patches rotate out, or maybe earlier if Team 5 can find a way to make cheap weapons good without being unstoppable in aggro.
There could be multiple ways of achieving a 2 mana weapon that would be less useless than a Stormforged Axe while not being on the power-level of pre-nerf axe. One recurring idea is that of a weapon with ‘Enrage’. This would introduce counterplay whereby not having a damaged hero would reduce the power of your weaponry.
Don’t expect Warrior to get super-powered 2 drops straight away, however. Hearthstone plans its releases far in advance; and Team 5 likely weren’t anticipating the War Axe nerf to have such a huge immediate impact. They likely don’t have a whole trove of saved 2 mana powerhouses for such an occasion.
In the meantime, Warrior will still cling to relevance. Pirate is still passable and Fatigue Warrior experiments are still ongoing. But die hard fans of the class can still hope that, maybe one day, there’ll be a 2 drop worthy of stepping into the shoes of the mighty War Axe.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.
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