While debate is still raging regarding the power level of The Witchwood expansion, the dust has at least settled to the point where we now have a clear sense of what the meta looks like. Which also means we're able to start thinking about which legendary cards are most worth crafting in The Year of the Raven. As always at this time, in order to completely refresh our power ranking, I polled several pro players and collated their votes to create our top 20.
The Witchwood brought two new keywords with it: Echo and Rush. Both have made some impact, but Rush has been slightly more impressive so far. Echo has helped Quest Warrior to make a resurgence thanks to War Path, while Rush has been a major contributor in Quest Rogue, fuelled in large part by the healing potential of Vicious Scalehide.
As you'd expect our list is largely governed by raw power, but it's also intended to help you use your dust as efficiently as possible. Consequently, neutral cards tend to score higher, because they generally offer most potential return on investment. The cards towards the top should all be considered safe crafts. Bear in mind that I can't see the future (yet), so potential balance changes down the line—*cough* Bloodreaver *splutter* Gul'dan—may well change things. But rest assured that if the nerfhammer does fall, you'll be able to disenchant the card for its full value.
One current complaint is that Blizzard is always trying to force archetypes upon us, which is clearly evidenced by every card in The Witchwood being either odd or even. Although amusing, it is also highlights a point worth bearing in mind, which is that Genn and Baku are extremely safe to craft, given their broad build-around nature.
Talking of safe crafts, the cards in our top four were out in front by a long way. Two were actually tied for third place, but I have a deciding vote for such situations, which I base on overall consistency across the voting.
It is also worth mentioning that Xixo put Call to Arms at the top of his list. Although clearly in jest, it helps make the point that if you are playing Paladin, Call to Arms is an absolute must. It is one of the best cards ever printed and should be factored into your crafting costs. Now on with the list...
#20: Rin, the First Disciple
Rin's big flashy effect is the destruction of your opponent’s deck, which has become increasingly useful as Control Warlock decks have grown in dominance. However, the impact of just playing her seals should not be underestimated either. They create a combined 30 attack worth of minions (a number that I doubt is a coincidence) over a few turns, and as such gives the opponent something to worry about while you're setting up her ultimate ability.
Rin can be a little awkward to use. She is weak to the ever increasing amount of silence on the ladder, and so will often need to be destroyed on the turn you play her. Due to this, she is currently almost exclusively found in decks that also utilise Possessed Lackey and Dark Pact. It can also be difficult to buy time to safely play the initial seals if your opponent is applying a lot of pressure.
Overall, she is a powerful card, and a constant menace to non-Warlock control decks. So much so that some have tried tech-ing in Azalina Soul Thief as a potential counter (the idea being to steal Azari, the Devourer once he's in hand). Rin's low placement in the list is due to the fact that there are several even more important legendary cards for Warlock players to craft. But make no mistake, she is an all-important extra Rin condition.
#19: Bloodmage Thalnos
Thalnos (not to be confused with the purple Avengers baddie, who probably has better stats than 1/1) has been a staple legendary since the dawn of Hearthstone. He's also created headaches for analysts since day one. The difficulty with conveying how good the card is lies in the fact that several other cards, such as Loot Hoarder and Kobold Geomancer, appear to do similar jobs. But that's actually also the point. Thalnos does the job of two cards in single convenient package. Neither aspect of the card is particularly powerful, but many decks can utilise both aspects, and this can amount to a substantial incremental advantage.
Thalnos is best placed in combo decks where he's used to find key pieces of the combo as quickly as possible. If that combo includes a spell damage finish, even better. In the current meta, he's found in Resurrect Priest alongside Prophet Velen, as well as Miracle Rogue, which loves both spell damage and card cycle. Thalnos can also be found in Shudderwock Shaman, where it mainly functions as a third Loot Hoarder. As his 19th place ranking suggests, it's usually OK not to own him, but if you have some extra dust available then Thalnos will find a slot in many decks, and is likely to see at least some play forever.
#18: Deathstalker Rexxar
Deathstalker Rexxar is paws down one of the most powerful cards in the game. The issue with him at this time is making use of the limited support which he has available. His natural fit is in a slower Hunter build where he has time to generate multiple Beasts and suffers little downside through the loss of the Steady Shot hero power. The Build-a-Beast effect got a substantial buff with the release of The Witchwood expansion as Rush is generally a terrific keyword to put on a beast, and Lifesteal is often critical to buying enough time for future Beasts to make a significant impact on the game.
However, due to being a Legendary, he is not a good card to build an entire deck around, and so the other cards need to be able to win games on the occasions that he lurks at the bottom of your deck. In the current meta Odd Hunter is the Hunter deck of choice, while the problem for Control Hunter is simply that other classes are better suited to slow strategies. Spell Hunter is the best fit for Rexxar right now, and that remains a somewhat niche deck. A card this powerful tends to find a home though, and if you enjoy lashing animals together, it seems likely that Deathstalker will only get better as the Year of the Raven rumbles on.
#17: Sonya Shadowdancer
Sonya’s ability is great when you are ahead on board, but when you are behind she risks becoming just a 2/2 for 3 Mana. This means that her natural home is in tempo decks as they tend to be in front at the start of the game and then run out of cards rapidly. Although viable in such decks, the downside when you are behind turns out to be a big one and as such, Sonya has fallen out of favour in those sort of decks.
Luckily for people who opened Sonya, or crafted her a little too enthusiastically, Sonya has also found an extremely important role in Quest Rogue decks. The ability to play her and then sacrifice several Stonetusk Boars or Southsea Deckhands means that you can rapidly complete the Quest. Early board presence is rarely important in Quest Rogue, which means that she functions as an important combo piece. If you have any interest at all in that archetype, she is a must-craft card.
She also has the potential to turn up in other decks in the future, but for now resides firmly in the shadowy depths of The Caverns Below.
#16: Edwin Van Cleef
Edwin’s place on this list fluctuates enormously with the meta, but he always manages to find a way to hang on in there. This time around it felt like he might actually vanish from the list entirely due to the popularity of Odd Rogue and the fact he has no place in that deck due to the lack of zero mana cards (which count as even for Hearthstone purposes).
As always though, it must be pointed out just how powerful Edwin is. In the right deck, he can simply solo games. A 10/10 on turn three can often go all the way, and Miracle Rogue, PickPocket Rogue, and Tempo Rogue are all fringe archetypes that are seeing some play at the moment.
If Edwin is to survive in the top 20 as more cards are added to the pool, one of those archetypes is going to need some help. Will he finally leave this page, or will the leader of the Brotherhood defy us again?
#15: Frost Lich Jaina
As expected, the departure of Ice Block from Standard hit Jaina pretty hard. Ice Block had a multitude of purposes, but the most important one was to buy a safe turn in which Jaina could be played. She picked up a little help from the rest of the set with Witchwood Piper (to fetch Arcane Artificer and the occasional Doomsayer), Arcane Keysmith, and the powerful Voodoo Doll being the most played Witchwood cards in Control Mage.
Jaina decks currently suffer from poor positioning in relation to the meta. They can be overrun by the power of extreme aggro, and tend to get fatigued by Warlock decks due to their reliance on 3/6 Water Elementals to try and get through the huge amount of Taunt before time expires. There is still a feeling, though, that a cheap AoE spell, such as Volcanic Potion, would soon bring Jaina back to the forefront. Control Mage is a playable archetype, particularly in tournament play, and has a lot of opportunity to strengthen as more sets are released.
It should also be noted that Elemental Mage is not completely dead, and if you own Jaina it can provide a second archetype to play. For now though, she's a super powerful card that did not quite get enough support to replace Ice Block in the new rotation. Which would have been terrifying!