For one of the signature clans of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, the Grimy Goons sure were a letdown. Their handbuff mechanic, exclusive to Paladin, Warrior and Hunter, proved far too slow and random to be useful for most of its implementation. Now, with another buff-style mechanic coming to these same three classes in Boomsday, it’s time to ask: will Magnetic prove similarly disastrous? Or will their mech-flavoured buffing end up succeeding where Don Han’cho failed?
Mashing up mechs
Handbuff was a straightfoward, if random mechanic. Every handbuff minion would give a random minion in the hand a set amount of stats. This proved incredibly anti-tempo, especially since its randomness meant it could be many turns before you cashed in your value. Though handbuff Paladin and a few choice buff cards floated around viability, most were ineffective.
Magnetic, meanwhile, offers a simple choice. Every Magnetic mech can either be a standalone minion, or a buff to a mech on the board, depending on which side of the mech you play it. On the right, it’s a minion, as the “polarities” repel. On the left, it combines both stats and effects into a single minion. This provides a number of advantages over handbuff, along with a few downsides.
Inventiveness versus control
One of the biggest upsides of handbuff was its applicability to any minions. Targets like Leeroy, Saronite Chain Gang or Doppelgangster could create huge values or OTKs. Unfortunately, this was only allowed to continue due to its inherent inconsistency. Thinning your hand down to the one specific minion you needed was a tricky task at the best of times. The buffs were rarely worth the effort. This is partly why Paladin was one of the few classes with semi-viable handbuff decks, as they can utilise reliable pan-hand buffs like Smuggler’s Run and Grimestreet Outfitter.
Magnetic allows no such universal applicability. Magnetic minions will only act as buffs if you have mechs on board, limiting the potential for OTKs or crazy synergies. However, this means that Magnetic won’t break the game if it’s tuned to be competitive. It also means more control in moment-to-moment interactions, as the choice to play as a minion will never be terrible value by itself.
The tempo question
There is one big downside to Magnetic compared to handbuff; the requirement of board control to provide full tempo. While you can play magnetic minions on the same turn as the mech, you’re opening yourself up to silence and hard removal losing you the game. Buffing and immediately trading or going face requires board control, which overly tribal-focused Magnetic decks may struggle to gain.
There are some ways around this to explore however. Rush is one option that is already being investigated. Taunt is another, in the aptly named Paladin minion Annoy-o-module. However, the biggest way to avoid this strategy is the Upgradeable Framebot. This sticky little 1/5 can get around this issue by never letting you lose the board in the first place; a far superior strategy for a synergy deck that will likely rely on tempo plays to succeed. By gaining early board control and snowballing tempo, Magnetic could succeed in aggro strategies where Handbuff never did.
Meching the difference
By far the biggest impact on the success of Magnetic will be the mech pool. Too few, and Magnetic becomes too unreliable, as building your deck around mechs becomes far harder to justify.
Luckily, there is one format where Magnetic is all but guaranteed to make an impact; Wild. With so many strong mechs like Shielded Minibot, Piloted Shredder and Whirling Zap-o-matic, Magnetic will likely make a far larger impact.
However, regardless of Magnetic’s success, the Warrior Epic curse will likely continue in the form of Beryllium Nullifier.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.