With The Grand Tournament just launched, Hearthstone players around the world are anticipating a fresh new metagame. But what cards should you spend your hard earned dust on right now? I'm here to break it down for you.
My name is Andrey 'Reynad' Yanyuk. I'm a professional Hearthstone player and deckbuilder that has created many of the games' most powerful decks. I am also the captain of the best team of Hearthstone Pros in the game, Tempo Storm. Our decks and content are featured daily on tempostorm.com, where you can also create and share your own Hearthstone decks and guides.
Creating a top 10 list for this expansion was extremely difficult. To rank cards by "most powerful" would mean that I list class cards a lot higher than neutrals because the class restriction allows cards to be much stronger. Neutral cards show up in more types of decks though, so they give people the impression of being much more "OP" because of their popularity.
The Grand Tournament also has very few strong "general purpose" cards, instead having a lot of powerful cards for specific deck types and roles. It was also really hard to decide which cards for specific roles should be ranked higher than others. Cards like Murloc Knight have a ton of potential, but are not as strong in the abstract so they fell just shy of making the list.
If a TGT card is the absolute best card in one deck and one deck only, and another card is also the best but in an entirely different deck, it's hard to judge what to rank higher. Because of this, the #1 card is not necessarily going to be in a better deck than the #10 card, but is stronger in the abstract. Some cards in the set will also see play in the same deck every time because they fit the same strategy, so I've paired them together.
Without further ado, let's jump in!
10. Polymorph: Boar
Polymorph: Boar is by far the best mage card in the set. It is one of the most aggressive and interesting card designs I've seen in the game. Reducing the cost of a standard Polymorph by 1 is not enough to make you play Polymorph: Boar in a defensive Mage deck, but it's another story entirely when it comes to aggro. This card allows you to shut down problematic minions like Sludge Belcher or Ancient of War to push through for lethal, or target your own minion to kill your opponent when you would otherwise be just a few points shy of winning. You can also use Polymorph: Boar in the midgame to create an efficient trade with mad Scientist. The flexibility of the card in aggressive decks really pushes it over the top. Polymorph: Boar also summons a 4/2 charge the same percentage of the time as Animal Companion, and we all know how strong that card is already.
9. Chillmaw/Twilight Guardian/Wyrmrest Agent
Dragon decks got some love in TGT. Chillmaw and Twilight Guardian will be seen side by side in dragon decks of various classes. Because most classes have other strong ways to build their decks, these dragons will likely be played most in Priest. Even if that ends up being the case though, they could potentially turn the weakest class in the game into a strong contender. Both dragons are good in most matchups but especially strong against Patron Warrior, which is key because pure control decks tend to be weak to combo-oriented decks. A 4 mana 3/6 taunt lines up well against Piloted Shredders and Death's Bites alike, while Chillmaw provides a strong 7 mana play to bridge the gap between your Blackwing Corruptors and Ysera. It's impossible to say if these cards will be enough to make Dragon decks a competitive strategy at high ranks, but I definitely plan on trying!
8. Garrison Commander
While I feel like the "joust" mechanic will fall flat in competitive play, it's another story entirely for Inspire. Inspire allows you to build a midrange deck with an extremely low curve, much like Patron Warrior for example. This means no more opening hands with a bunch of unplayable minions like Ysera and Ragnaros. At the very least, you will have the option of playing out Garrison Commander as a River Crocolisk to trade with an aggro opponent’s Knife Juggler. As the game stretches out and you have access to more and more mana crystals, drawing cards like Garrison Commander becomes much more effective than most 2 mana cards would have been. Where most low-curve decks would have run out of cards, you now have a way to expend all of your extra mana while taking control of the game with cheap, powerful cards like Murloc Knight. Maybe this kind of strategy ends up being a little too weak for competitive play, but I can definitely envision a metagame where this is the basis of (at the very least) midrange Paladin decks.
7. Justicar Trueheart/Frost Giant
Speaking of Inspire, Justicar Trueheart and Frost Giant provide some powerful late-game tools for decks that inherently use their hero power often. I see these as being played in Control Warrior more than anything, but classes like Paladin and Priest are not out of the question. Gaining 4 armor per turn, or dropping a 2 mana 8/8 the same turn as a Shieldmaiden is a very quick way to take control of a game that you've dragged out to the later turns. While these cards are unplayable in classes such as Hunter or Rogue, I see a lot of potential when it comes to the slower classes.
6. Eydis Darkbane/Fjola Lightbane
Mech decks are equal opportunity employers. Even though these legendaries are not part of the Mech tribe, I expect them to be played mostly alongside cards such as Mechanical Yeti and Clockwork Gnome. The stats are fantastic even when you aren't getting the bonus, but a single activation of their effect and you are getting a great return on your mana. Mage is likely the most comfortable home for these cards, where they have potential in Flamewaker Tempo Decks as well. There is good synergy in a class like Priest as well, but I think there are already too many 3 mana options in Priest for Eydis or Fjola to see play there.
5. Totem Golem
The 2-drop to punish opposing 2-drops. Totem Golem will not only be rounding out aggressive Mech Shaman lists with another great early-game option, but be played in defensive Shaman decks to keep up on the board early. The Overload on Totem Golem is manageable, and you can even follow up a coin-Totem Golem turn 1 with a turn 2 Rockbiter Weapon or Earth Shock. This is exactly the kind of tool that Shaman decks needed to climb out of the lower tier of classes.
4. Refreshment Vendor
This walrus is absurd. When most people look at this card, they see an unexciting arena pick, but this is the kind of card that will destroy aggro more than crap like Healing Wave ever could. The stats beat up Piloted Shredder, put Antique Healbot to shame, and are passable even when gaining no life. The lifegain is substantial enough to prevent you from dying to direct damage late in the game. Because of its general utility I had this card at #1 on the list for most drafts of this article, but decided that the #1-3 cards on the list should be the ones that could potentially dominate the metagame rather than just fulfill an important role well. Any defensive deck that disregards its' opponent's life total will want to be playing Refreshment Vendor for a long time to come, and I for one welcome our new Walrus overlord.
3. Gormok the Impaler
As my highest ranked legendary in the set, I see Gormok as underrated by most people. Druid, Warlock, Shaman, Paladin, and even Hunter are all classes that can reliably meet Gormok's conditions at some point in the game. A single Implosion and you're good to go. With a minion in play you can trade a Haunted Creeper into Sludge Belcher, Hero Power a totem/soldier into play for a 4th minion, and play Gormok to finish off the Sludge Belcher. You can reliably build decks before TGT that enable this card, and that's before we even consider new tools like Murloc Knight and Living Roots (probably my #11 and #12 cards on the list). The stats die to every common 4 mana card such as Death's Bite, which is definitely a strike against Gormok, but the payoff is good enough that I expect to see him in most aggressive and Midrange lists with cheap minions.
2. Darnassus Aspirant
Darnassus Aspirant is disgusting. Almost Mad Scientist levels of disgusting. This is a minion that around 50% of the time will only be a River Crocolisk, which is fine. The other 50% of the time, however, your opponent gets destroyed. Playing a turn 3 Piloted Shredder is enough of a lead to snowball most games, and the fact that Darnassus Aspirant demands an answer starting turn 1 or 2 is akin to the old Undertaker. To put it in perspective, this is like a Mechwarper that affects every card in the game and doesn't require you to put crap like Annoy-O-Tron in your deck to be good. Will it die immediately half of the time and be unimpressive? Sure, but the fact that it forces your opponent to play in that way still has value, and you still evenly traded for a Frostbolt or Knife Juggler in most cases. Fast Druid is looking very, very strong with the more consistent opening hands that Darnassus Aspirant brings to the table.
1. Lock and Load/King's Elekk
Lock and Load is a card that many other pros were reviewing as mediocre, but when an effect this powerful comes along I am determined to make it work. It is very reminiscent of the old Starving Buzzard for me. You play a 2 mana card, then you draw a million. Sure, random cards aren't as good as cards you put in your deck on purpose (although sometimes they're better). And yes, you can't just combo this with a single Unleash the Hounds to get the payoff. The thing is, Lock and Load isn't the kind of card you just shove into existing decks and expect to have work. This is a card like Grim Patron. It will take weeks and weeks of frustration and refinement to develop a functional, refined list. And once we do, people could be calling for a nerf all over again. Tracking is not just a cheap spell, but lets you consistently find Lock and Load every single game. Arcane Shot and Hunter's Mark are passable defensive cards to keep you alive with the help of Mad Scientist and Traps. Animal Companion is a great creature, Power Shot provides a new Consecration-like effect, and to top it all off we have King's Elekk.
When most people reviewed King's Elekk, they saw it as another option for a 2-drop in beast hunter decks. Personally, I have a very different role in mind for this card. What do combo decks that build up for a big turn like to draw? Emperor Thaurisan. What is most of your Lock and Load deck going to be filled with? Spells. So if your Trackings aren't enough to find you a consistent Emperor into Lock and Load turn, King's Elekk lets you play effectively 2 copies of Emperor. If Emperor is the only minion in your deck, you can play 1 copy of King's Elekk to always joust with it (and it will almost always win and be drawn). If you intend to play something like Sludge Belchers, you can play two copies of Elekk.
I feel like there is the potential for a new broken Hunter list, and even if it's not the best version of Hunter the deck will definitely be strong. Because of its' incredible potential, I put Lock and Load as my #1 most OP card in The Grand Tournament. I'll be streaming often along with the rest of Tempo Storm when the set is released on the 24th, so tune in as we experiment with wild new strategies and help you Become Legendary! You can find us at tempostorm.com and twitch.tv/team/tempostorm. For more on The Grand Tournament, you can find a gallery of every single new card here.