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One year on, we’re still in Gadgetzan

Mean Streets of Gadgetzan came out over a year ago, but we’re still in its grip. The defining Gadgetzan tools of Jade, Highlander and Pirates dominate the meta. Four legendaries tell the story of how the expansion dominates every facet of Standard. Indeed, almost 50 percent of decks on ladder have at least one of Aya, Patches or Kazakus.

Han’cho, the failure

gadgetzan
The failure of Han’cho’s Handbuffs had lasting impacts

Gadgetzan isn’t only defined by its successes. One of the sets most long-lasting implications was the utter failure of the Handbuff mechanic. This is epitomised in Don Han’cho and his Grimy Goons. This two-headed mobster is notable for how he represents the complete mediocrity of Handbuff. Though some Paladin decks with limited Handbuff mechanics have bordered on viability, the overwhelming impact was that one of the most potent expansions contained very little viable class cards for Hunter, Warrior and Paladin.

The impact of this is surprising; while other classes got powerful Kabal spells and Jade synergies, Warrior, Paladin and Hunter were left to pick up what Neutral synergy they could. While this worked for a time, these classes have consistently struggled for much of the past year. Outside of Pirates, Warrior has wallowed in mediocrity or outright unplayability; Hunters are easy prey for more refined Aggro, while Paladin struggles to make any archetype other than Murloc work. They currently make up three of the four least played classes. Their combined representation makes up only 16 percent of the ladder, less than Priest, Rogue or Druid do individually.

Aya, the mid-game queen

Gadgetzan
Aya is arguably better than a tri-class Savannah Highmane

Much has been said about the remarkable mid/late-game tempo power of Jades. What’s remarkable is how much of that comes down to a single card. Not only does Aya provide an aggressive 5/3 body and a Jade Golem for six, her deathrattle also gives you yet another golem. With three bodies of beefy minions in an AOE resistant package, Aya has swung countless games. Even if you survive the onslaught, her double Jade ramp means the turns after are even tougher.

Aya has seen play in every Jade deck out there apart from perhaps Big Druid with its two Jade Blossoms and nothing else. Even Aggro and Evolve Shaman, running nothing but Jade Claws and Jade Lightnings, benefit hugely from her. She represents everything that made Jade so dominant; sticky, aggressive, ramping stats on the cheap. While Jade never took off in Rogue, it has had a massive influence on Druid and Shaman for the past 12 months, leading Control decks everywhere to despairingly wonder “How long can this go on?”

Kazakus, the spellmaster

gadgetzan
Kazakus bolstered multiple Highlander archetypes

Despite the departure of his best buddy Reno Jackson, Kazakus is still a huge part of the meta. Of course, the reigning Highlander deck relies far less on him than on Raza and Shadowreaper, but Kazakus and the Kabal represents the flavour and style of the deck. Inconsistent but immensely powerful, Highlander decks rely on a few potent abilities and synergies to survive their otherwise mediocre decklists. Once that came from Reno; now it comes from Shadowreaper and Raza. But Kazakus remains, providing massive swing turns with his custom spells.

The power of Highlander brought both fun and frustration. Fun, for the flexibility of the highlander decklists, and the big, strong cards they play. Frustrating due to their inherent alternation between weakness and overbearing strength, depending on draw consistency. But such power spikes are necessary to fight off the might of Jades and Patches.

Patches, forever in charge

Gadgetzan
Bar Undertaker, no other card has defined the early game so much

There’s a decent case to suggest that Patches the Pirate is the most powerful minion ever printed. At zero cost apart from running pirates and the risk of drawing him, he redefined the early game. Almost every Pirate became great overnight (sorry Cap’n Crag) and the early game micro-meta was massively upended. Cards like Fire Fly and Voidwalker are good largely because they trade favourably with Patches. Golakka Crawler has done little to halt his rise.

Patches has provided a 1/1 charge boost to almost every aggro or tempo deck. He has single-handedly created a world where Aggro can win the board with intense prejudice. It will be fascinating to see how aggro and tempo can survive without him. Patches deck’s sub-50 percent winrate when drawing him could be an indication of things to come.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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