Hearthstone's new Priest legendary is the most ridiculous card since Yogg (and players already love it)

There's always one in every Hearthstone set. A card so ridiculous that the community freaks out at first sight and starts theorycrafting decks for it. In past expansions the likes of Emperor Thaurissan and Reno Jackson filled the role of one-card marketing campaign, while Yogg-Saron also ticked many of the same boxes, going on to become perhaps the ultimate meme card—we just didn't realise how powerful it was at first.

Archbishop Benedictus

All your decks are belong to us.

Now we likely know what "that card" is going to be for Knights of the Frozen Throne. The expansion is due out next month and Blizzard is currently in card spoiler mode. Last night it revealed a Priest Legendary called Archbishop Benedictus which is absolutely bonkers. The text reads: "Battlecry: Shuffle a copy of your opponent's deck into your deck." That's right, when you play Benedictus your opponent's entire remaining deck gets added to your own in a random order. 

Great. The most kleptomaniacal of all Hearthstone's classes can now steal every single card in your deck at once. Given that control Priest decks often look to drag games out interminably long, it means you're almost never going to run out of cards before your opponent does—unless they're playing Jade Druid, in which case you can both "go infinite" with Jade Idol

The reaction from streamers, pros and the wider community has been a mixture of excitement and bewilderment. Here's what Jason "Amaz" Chan, long considered one of the most prominent Priest players in Hearthstone, had to say last night: "At the airport coming back home, and then open Twitter to find this. Oh. No." And here's the verdict from 2016 European Spring Champion Thijs "Thijs" Molendijk:

Meanwhile, the thread on r/hearthstone dedicated to the card has cruised past 1,800 comments, the second most popular of which reads: "They've gone mad". Over on r/CompetitiveHS, where more sober heads reign, the general sentiment was that the card sounds like incredible fun but is almost certainly bad in terms of high-ranked play. There were some dissenters, though, such as user BlueTigerOrpheus, who admonished the buzz killers:

"I'm utterly flabbergasted by and disappointed with the lack of imagination in this thread, to be frank. Benedictus is a clear value-oriented legendary, meant to be dropped roughly a bit after halfway through the game. It enables Priest to run a heavier draw engine, grab a mix of the opponent's threats AND removal from any deck that's mid-range or slower and perhaps similar to Entomb and Elise gain the ability to forego running a multitude of top-end at all in favor of anti-aggro tech. Benedictus IS the Greed You Need."

I don't think it's ever going to actually be good outside of a metagame full of matchups that are regularly decided by fatigue.—Brian Kibler

Bold words, and with an effect this unusual, it's tricky to evaluate the power level accurately. I decided to ask Brian Kibler, popular Hearthstone streamer and no stranger to greedy Priest decks, what he thought. "Archbishop Benedictus is one of the weirdest and craziest cards we've ever seen in Hearthstone, but I don't think it's ever going to actually be good outside of a metagame full of matchups that are regularly decided by fatigue," Kibler told me. "That won't stop me from playing with it for some hilarious moments, though." 

Implicit in Kibler's evaluation is the unlikelihood of a fatigue-based meta ever developing. Fatigue happens when you run out of cards and begin taking exponentially more damage on each subsequent turn, but Blizzard is on record as saying it prefers a shorter average game length than matches which go to fatigue. Hearthstone's core mechanics have also meant that tempo-based aggressive decks are always strong, and there's no reason to think that won't be the case with Knights of the Frozen Throne.

What plenty of players also fail to realize is that in a card deck more does not necessarily mean better. In fact, given the choice you would usually benefit from running a smaller deck, because the logic is that you would remove whatever your weakest cards are (some will always be worse than others), and therefore draw your best, and most synergistic, cards more reliably. Which also begs the question, what kind of Priest deck wants to dilute its potential draws with all the stuff your opponent is playing. If you're up against a greedy control Mage then pulling his Alexstraza or Ice Block might be sweet, but against a Token Shaman do you ever want to be top decking Flame Elementals?

So no, my gut feeling is that Archbishop Benedictus is not a good card. In terms of winning games, it's probably a spectacularly bad one. But it's also the kind of effect that those of us who love Hearthstone will get a rush from seeing happen, especially on those occasions when it ends up giving the Priest player a hilariously lucky series of stolen cards. Will it make the cut in our best legendaries list? Almost certainly not. But praising Yogg is so 2016. This year the memers will be praying to Benedictus.

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.