Now that we know that The Witchwood will be Hearthstone's first expansion of 2018, it really does feel like The Year of the Mammoth is almost over. After a tumultuous February which included nerfs to two stapes on this list—Raza the Chained and Patches the Pirate—the meta has now stabilised for one last time before The Year of the Raven launches in April.
For this version of the list, I've strongly factored in that many powerful cards—such as N’Zoth the Corruptor—will be rotating out of Standard when The Witchwood arrives. Only the true powerhouses from Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night in Karazhan, and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan remain on the list. For those still considering crafting those cards, I want to be clear that you only get very short-term use out of them in Standard. Something to bear in mind when examining the position of each card compared to its power level.
As ever, this list is intended as a crafting guide. Deciding what to spend your dust on is a personal experience, and we've all blown our painstakingly accrued savings on a legendary just because we fell in love with its flavour. The cards in the upper echelons of the list are all reasonably safe crafts, but be sure to read the write ups to understand why each card has placed highly. That's the best way to know if if it's likely to mesh with the way you want to play. Pre-rotation is also the most volatile time for our list, because predicting future metas is inherently tricky, so bear that in mind before you go all-in on Rhok'Delar.
Patches the Pirate dominated this poll for much of 2017, with many pro players calling for it to be nerfed. Eventually they got their wish, and this has had a huge knock on effect throughout the rest of the list. Although Patches and Aya were oppressive in their day, I think that overall this is not a meta that will be remembered as a bad one. The game is still only four years old, which means that the cards that are rotating out were probably designed in the first year or so of its existence. Recent sets have shown that much has been learned from those early days, and I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for us in the Year of the Raven, and which of these cards retain their place on our list.
We will be back in a couple of months with another poll of pros to aid you in deciding which of the new cards need to steer you through The Witchwood meta!
#20: Aya Blackpaw
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave Aya off the list. Aya-chan has appeared as part of our power ranking ever since she was released, and at times was rated towards the top. At the height of her powers, the golem-loving Pandaren was a staple in every Jade deck, including Druid, Shaman and even Rogue.
These days she’s just used by the few hardy souls still plugging away with Jade Druid. Even there, she’s no longer a vital component of how the deck functions, as the archetype concentrates more on gaining armor and drawing cards with Ultimate Infestation. As time has gone by, Jade Shaman decks have stopped being effective, and Jade Rogue never improved to the point where it made a real impact on the meta.
Nonetheless, I can make the excuse that she belongs on this list because she is going to be an evergreen in Wild, although the Jade mechanic is less prevalent there than it was in Standard. Overall, there are probably better value cards for the 20th best Legendary to craft, but I’m going to leave Aya here in memoriam for one of the strongest cards introduced by the year of the Kraken era. Golems might be her best friends, but she made plenty more.
#19: Harrison Jones
Harrison is a weird looking inclusion in this list, especially when there are other weapon destruction cards oozing from every corner. However, in control decks, Harrison is often a better choice than the other available options. As we climb this list, you will see why removing weapons is important right now.
The original impact of the Legendary Weapons from Kobolds and Catacombs was confined to a few decks, but with Paladin and Hunter seeing quite a bit of play, you'll usually find a target. Weapon removal is already seen in a reasonable percentage of competitive ladder decks, and I wouldn't expect the next Standard rotation to change that too much. For now it looks like the museum will be staying open.
At the time of writing, Spell Hunter, which uses Barnes to fetch Y’Shaarj, Rage Unbound is one of the better decks in the format. Some players are even dropping Rhok’Delar, such is the power of the spells available to Hunter. However, the refill potential of Rhok’Delar once Barnes and Y’Shaarj are out of the deck, means that the majority of players will retain the weapon in order to provide a vital injection of gas against control opponents.
Of course the archetype has a major issue going forward: Barnes and Y’Shaarj will be gone! However, there's a good chance that this won't be the deathblow it might sound like. Spell Hunter players already have to find ways to win when they don’t hit their killer combo, and many of the strong Hunter spells will remain for another year. Lesser Emerald Spellstone in particular is probably too powerful, but is escaping the nerf hammer because it enables the entire archetype, and it's not like the deck is oppressive currently.
With all that in mind, the basis is there for Spell Hunter to remain a thing going forward. It should also be noted that Rhok’Delar is just a ton of fun to play. You can use it right now and perform well, plus there's a decent chance of the card remaining relevant in the future. That's what this version of this list is all about.
#17: N’Zoth the Corruptor
In Standard, N’Zoth currently finds a home in Mage, Paladin, and most commonly, Warlock. The ability to bring back an army of minions for ten mana is a strong one, especially when those minions have effects which have already impacted the game once, and will potentially do so again if removed. In Warlock decks, the synergy with Voidlord in particular is fantastic, and N’Zoth can often close out a game should the first line of defence fail.
The reason that N’Zoth has to remain on this list, despite only having a few weeks of life left in Standard, is because a) it's incredibly strong, and b) it's set to remain an absolute monster in Wild. Although our list is focused on Standard play, N'Zoth feels like such a potent card that you really should own a copy. If you have absolutely no intention of ever playing Wild, you should value crafting N'Zoth based on the enjoyment you will get from his final month of play. But if you're factoring in Wild, then this card is easily in the top five must-crafts.
#16: Scourgelord Garrosh
Garrosh has nipped in and out of these rankings since release, largely based on the card's huge amount of potential, and some amount of success in fatigue warrior decks. And that’s pretty much still the same reasoning this time around. Control Warrior is seeing play, particularly in tournaments, but it is clearly not a dominant force on ladder at this time.
That potential is still there though. Shadowmourne is an incredible weapon which can single-handedly close out a game if the Warrior has a high enough health or armor total. As a card that you use once, Scourgelord Garrosh is possibly not quite enough, but thanks to Dead Man’s Hand you can realistically expect to play the Death Knight multiple times if necessary.
The Hero Power dealing 1 damage to all minions is also a big deal. It has natural synergy with so many cards that are staple in Warrior decks, most notably Acolyte of Pain, Execute, and Armorsmith. It also kills boards of small minions single-handed.
Despite his inconsistency on our list, there is no reason to believe that Garrosh is just a Whirlwind romance.
#15 Rin, the First Disciple
Rin is an interesting card because her power level isn't entirely depending on landing Azari. Although the headline effect of destroying your opponent’s deck is obviously ridiculously strong, players soon identified that this would not come off particularly often.
What is easily overlooked though, is the sheer value that Rin generates. She creates 30 attack worth of minions by the time all of the seals have been played, and even more importantly they're all demons, and as such can be returned to play by Bloodreaver Gul’Dan.
Rin can be a little awkward to use. She is weak to silence, so you will often want to kill her off on the turn that she is played. This works well in decks that are playing strategies involving Carnivorous Cube and Possessed Lackey, which are also cards which work well when destroyed using Dark Pact.
Most of the cards that work well with Rin survive for another year, and so the future looks bright for a card that was originally written off as unplayably slow. Control decks like nothing better than having another Rin Condition
On the next page: #14 to #6, including Kingsbane and The Lich King...