Greetings fellow Hearthstoners, Vincent Sarius here with some cool new combos to help crush your opponents. It's been a while since my previous article, and a lot has changed in that time. Almost all the wings of Curse of Naxxramas are now open, and the accompanying new cards have been causing seismic changes to the metagame. The arrival of Loatheb (easily the MVP of the new Legendaries) plus all the new, sticky Deathrattle minions has had a profound influence on the tempo of matches.
This week we're going to focus on some of the most interesting and fun synergies between the new cards. Some of these combos are trickier to pull off than others, but once played you'll be able to feel your opponent's salt as they hover over the concede button. Enjoy, and let us know what's been working for you in the comments section at the bottom.
Echoing Ooze is one of the coolest cards introduced by Naxx. There's a lot to be said for the Legendaries, but the Ooze's self-replicating effect is unique and so powerful that I'm going to be tempted to stick it in most decks. Its 2/4 minimum baseline of total stats (once the Ooze splits) means it passes the 'vanilla test' of value. Apply any sort of buff, however, and it becomes an absolutely insane 2-drop.
The reason for highlighting Mark of the Wild in particular is that it represents an even stronger play for Druids than the classic turn 1 Coin-Innervate-Yeti shenanigans. On turn 1 you can potentially play Coin-Ooze-Innervate-Mark of the Wild, for a total of 6/8 of stats with Taunt. (Better yet, two bodies makes it less vulnerable to Sap.) Suffice to say, your opponent will find it hard to recover from that kind of opening.
During ongoing experiments with his Deathrattle/Demon deck, (more about which next week), my fellow PC Gamer Hearthstone correspondent Tim Clark managed to pull off the double Thaddius dream. Proof . The "easier" way of achieving it involves having Baron Rivendare on the board when the second of Feugen and Stalaag dies. Suddenly having 22/22 worth of stats on the board is probably GG unless your opponent has Brawl or a full clear combo like Equality+Wild Pyromancer in hand.
Interestingly, if even more unlikely, the same double Thaddius dream can be pulled off by using a Void Terror to devour both at the same time. Each card's deathrattle checks if the other character has died, and as the answer is yes they both trigger and summon the big lummox.
I think this interaction is actually going to be better than I initially expected. Two of the key components in aggressive Paladin decks are having efficient damage sources and an easy way of dumping your hand when you need to get value from a huge Divine Favor draw.
These low cost Secrets fit both criteria. I've talked in previous articles about how Secrets are pretty bad because they can often be played around, minimizing their effect. But Noble Sacrifice is actually quite hard to play around. Eventually you have to attack your opponent's stuff and take the 2 damage. Of course you can use a minion with more than two health, or a weapon, but Noble Sacrifice has still done its job and dealt damage.
Now combine it with Avenge and you're getting a guaranteed target for the buff (the minion targeted originally) without really sacrificing anything of value. When the circumstances can be successfully manipulated, this combo yields a significant increase in the damage you would usually be able to do to your opponent. Especially if you manage to play the combo on turn 2, having already dropped something like a Leper Gnome or a Secretkeeper on turn 1.
This isn't so much a combo as a very interesting way of curving out a deck that can make full use of minions with harmful Deathrattles. I'm one of the people that thinks Deathlord's drawback—gifting your opponent a free minion—is actually a really, really big problem. Mostly because I always assume the worst possible outcome when evaluating any random element of a card. The same goes for Dancing Swords.
However, Wailing Soul's stats are respectable enough to be playable, and when used after you've already dropped an Ancient Watcher followed by a Deathlord or Dancing Swords, it will give you a huge boost of tempo and board advantage—without any of the downsides attached to those cards. The one caveat is you'll lose Deathlord's Taunt, but that won't stop it trading with your opponent's creatures.
The introduction of Loatheb is probably the single biggest change to Hearthstone since Blizzard nerfed Blood Imp. A lot of people are comparing Loatheb to Harrison Jones, but he's actually far more powerful due to the much greater number of spells being run compared to weapons.
Ironically, given that his ability was seemingly designed to put the brakes on Miracle Rogue players, Loatheb has actually found his way into their deck, where skilled players use him to great effect in mirror matches to prevent their rival's Leeroy combo.
In that context, Loatheb operates similarly to how Earthen Ring Farseers are used in all-aggro matchups. They both represent a way of delaying the game. You can lock your opponent out of lethal for up to three turns by using Shadowsteps defensively—don't forget to attack with Loatheb before you Shadowstep him!— giving you time to draw into your finishing combo. So to confirm: Miracle Rogue is now more annoying rather than less. Congratulations all round.
Next: The top five!
While Naxxramas has done a lot to slow down the burst-from-hand damage that was prevalent in recent seasons, it has also enabled some new wombo combos. Most notably, Shaman now has its own pseudo-Shadowstep in the form of Reincarnate. Between Ancestral Spirit and Reincarnate, you can bust through a 6-health Taunt and still deliver 12 damage to your opponent's face, possibly adding even more pain with the inclusion of a second Reincarnate or some Rockbiter Weapons.
Shaman wasn't a stranger to burst combos before, often utilizing Al'Akir with Rockbiters and Flametongue Totems to devastating effect, or Leeroy with Windfury. The difference now is that Reincarnate is actually a very flexible card when placed in a deck designed around it. Throw in Sylvanas, Cairne or some Earth Elementals, and it becomes ever less likely that Reincarnate will end up stuck in your hand while you wait to draw a second combo piece. In any card game, you want to minimize the risk of dead draws, which in contrast Windfury often was.
Again, not a complex combo, but it's worth discussing just how good Feugen and Stalagg are in Handlock. The deck used to have gaps in its curve, particularly at the 5 and 6 Mana slots. You could always play a Mountain Giant on turn 5, but that was more or less your only mana-efficient play. Nowadays people are experimenting with Sludge Belcher, but I don't rate the card as highly others seem to. Instead, I've opted to toss in these two along with Loatheb, cutting some of the more situational older cards.
Taunt up Feugen with a Defender of Argus or a Sunfury Protector and he provides an excellent wall behind which to hide your face, and your giants. Stalagg, meanwhile, is the perfect card to use Shadowflame on for a major board clear. Not only does 7 damage kill just about everything your opponent is likely to have, his death isn't even a downside. It only brings Thaddius closer. Besides, the deck is all about playing huge stuff at a discount. And the only thing bigger than Thaddius is Deathwing.
This is certainly an expensive combo to pull off, costing you 9 mana and two cards, but the effect is powerful enough to consider. The combo's main strength lies in its potential to preserve some board presence while guaranteeing a wipe of your opponent's side (barring potential Deathrattles from stuff like Voidcaller).
The impact of Naxxramas has been to refocus the game on board control, so having the tools to sweep away opposing minions is now more integral in deck construction than ever, and this is certainly one of the best full clears.
Of course, it comes with a significant risk attached. A 9-mana combo is a significant investment and your dudes get turned into Treants, so you have to consider whether the combo pieces also fit into your deck as standalones in order to minimize any over-reliance on their synergistic effect.
In my initial evaluation of the new class cards , I came down pretty hard on Duplicate, and I'm still of the opinion that it's mostly terrible. But this combo is actually pretty interesting because in a list stocked with other Secrets it allows for efficient deck-thinning.
Mad Scientist is both cheap enough, and efficient enough, that it should enable you to churn through your Secrets quickly and effectively, particularly when used in conjunction with other Secret-centric cards like Kirin Tor Mage and Ethereal Arcanist.
In a sense, the Scientist is like a slightly better Loot Hoarder, except you know what kind of card you're going to draw, and you get to play it for free. It seems like Secrets Mage has received quite a boon with Mad Scientist, and is now a pretty respectable deck archetype instead n of the silly gimmick it was previously.
Baron Rivendare is arguably the key thematic card in the Naxxramas set. There are too many possibilities to list here, but it's a card that can generate immense amounts of value from a good board position, has intense flexibility, and is all death-y. It can enable you to flood the board, clear the board, manipulate the board, buff the board...
My personal favorite, though, is playing him in tandem with Sylvanas for a 3:1 trade whenever she can be used to kill a minion while having two remaining targets for her double mind control. It's just such a devastating turn against any deck that it's hard, if not impossible, for them to recover from. So far, after the Echoing Ooze, Rivendare has been my favorite of the new cards to play with, and I can't see that changing anytime soon.
I hope you enjoyed checking out these combos, and maybe they've given you a couple of new ideas for your own decks. Good luck on the Ladder. It's certainly hectic out there!