When this author was first starting Hearthstone, they put every Enrage or damage-synergy minion into the same deck. It was a surprisingly successful strategy. Among the plays that confused and terrified numerous rank 17 opponents, Amani Berserker into Inner Rage and Rampage became a personal favourite for this writer. Of course, competent opponents would easily remove or trade into it. But the unprepared would quickly fall before a 4 mana 10/4.
But in the Year of the Raven, Amani Berserker is played in more decks than just in homebrew decks built by new players. The humble 2/3 is making the cut in some of the most cutting-edge, competitive decks of the meta. Both Even Paladin and Tempo Mage make great use of this aggressive troll, giving it huge Tier One representation. But why has Amani risen to the fore, when previous metas shunned it?
One important consideration is that Amani is a fundamentally solid card. Cheap, efficient minions are always good in Hearthstone, and as a 2/3 with a significant upside, Amani has proven to be a decent option. But as with almost all cards in Hearthstone, there have always been superior options to edge it out. Analysing the card in a vacuum, though, there is a worthwhile benefit.
If you manage to get it enraged, this card is a huge 5 attack threat. And since the function of 2/3s is often to eat your opponent’s 1-drop then threaten damage, Amani does this perfectly. Granted, it pales in comparison to past 2-cost powerhouses like Shielded Minibot or Haunted Creeper. It’s not that “sticky” and the extra attack rarely matters. However, with the Standard 2-drop pool so limited, it has become an ever more attractive option.
It Beats the Early Meta
Amani Berserker is also adept at countering the current early meta. With Fire Fly, Glacial Shard, and Kobold Librarian being some of the most played 1-cost minions in the game, Amani Berserker thrives. It can threaten to value trade their first turn play and leave behind a scary 5/2 or 5/1 body that could trade up or hit face. This power forces your opponent to slow down their gameplan, giving you tempo for your Kirin Tor Mage or Call to Arms as a followup.
What’s more, Amani also contests 2-drops nicely. Knife Juggler, Prince Keleseth and Dire Wolf Alpha are all perfect targets for Amani to threaten value trades with. And, like with 1-drops, these threatened value trades also synergise perfectly with its “when damaged” effect. And this 5 damage is extremely relevant for beating popular decks.
Five is a Big Number
Having five damage early is extremely important for both Even Paladin and Tempo Mage, especially in the tricky Warlock matchup. Trying to build a wide, resilient board is often a fool’s errand against Warlock’s plethora of clears. Instead, trying to hit face as hard as possible before Voidlord comes down is a great strategy. In this way, Amani shines. While other 2-drops may be stickier, Amani helps get in that last, vital bit of minion chip damage that allows you to burn them down before they can stabilise.
Not to mention that many decks can struggle to prevent value trades. Spiteful Druid and Even Paladin in particular have few efficient ways to deal with a 5/2. Even a 5/1 often forces a Druid to take 4 and spend 2 mana hero powering it down. And this 5 attack is perfect to trade up into something like a Blessing of Kings’d Silver Hand Recruit or Tar Creeper.
A Brief Window?
Don’t curse our new Forest Troll overlords just yet though; his spot in the sun may not last. With every expansion, more powerful 2-drops and synergies are released. Once the card pool grows large enough, competition for deck slots will grow fierce. A good enough 2-drop won’t cut it. Players will want the very best possible card that is either a vital tech or ties together synergies from your other cards.
Of course, once the Year of the Raven ends and the card pool reduces once more, then we may see the Amani Empire rise once more. Perhaps the only thing holding him back was that his keyword wasn’t properly explained on the card text.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.