In addition to completely resetting players' MMR ranking, this week's Hearthstone patch also added four new heroes and 15 Elemental minions. It's safe to say that it has completely rekindled my interest in Battlegrounds, which I've been jamming since Tuesday, and it's equally safe to say that the new tribe might be a little strong. Elementals synergise best with builds that focus on spamming Battlecry effects and turns in which you buy and sell units like a panicked frozen concentrated orange juice trader.
Of the new heroes in version 18.4, Ragnaros the Firelord is the obvious pick. According to HSReplay's data, the iconic insect-hater is the only Tier 1 hero in the game right now, with an average finishing placement of 3.00. Yup, even ahead of Jandice Barov, the previous most likely candidate for a nerf, due to the effects of her sickening Pogohopper addiction.
The reason big Rag is so strong is due to his passive Sulfuras hero power, which gives your left and right-most minions +4/+4 at the end of each buying phase. It's incredibly easy to activate (just kill 20 minions, which you'll do without trying) and requires no real building around once in place. Just plop whichever dudes are going to most benefit from buffs on the outside of your comp, and watch 'em grow.
As for the new minions, they're some of the mode's most fun yet. Building on the deliciously flavorful pirate set, it's impressive to see how much love is going into the art and design of the units created bespokely for Battlegrounds. The new crop includes Sellemental—so called because you can effectively sell it twice—and Nomi, Kitchen Nightmare, a riff on the hapless Pandaren chef that's already proving disgustingly potent.
By far my favourite, though, is the junior firelord himself: Lil' Rag. This was the unit that jumped out to me immediately when the Elemental set was first shown—I immediately sent him to my colleague Emma on Slack, she simply replied "wooooah"—and not just because the art is so cute you want to eat him up.
Lil' Rag's power lies in the ease with which he fires off big buffs. Once placed within your comp, each time you play an Elemental, Lil' Rag will buff one of your other units by the same number of stats as the Tavern Tier of the minion you just played. Sounds complicated but it really isn't. You basically just keep buying Elementals, and the higher the tier, the better.
Because you want to play a lot of them, Lil' Rag also synergises naturally with Battecry Elementals such as Arcane Assistant, Stasis Elemental, and especially Tavern Tempest (because it's Tier Five, hence a bigger buff). There are a ton of synergies to explore with the Elemental tribe. Brann Bronzebeard is an obvious fit thanks to his Battlecry doubling, Amalgadon makes for a perfect endgame beatstick (ideally with Poisonous and Divine Shield), and Molten Rock can develop the kind of booty usually reserved for Sir Mix-a-Lot's fever dreams, thanks to its scaling health.
But Lil' Rag is the white hot engine at the heart of any winning Elemental comp. Don't take my word for it, check out some great Lil' Rag runs posted by much better players:
So, is Lil' Rag likely to eat a nerf? I would say so. It's no surprise that, balance-wise, Elementals have come in a little hot. The same thing happened, but to an even more extreme degree, when Demon Hunter arrived in Standard, resulting in the fastest nerfs in Hearthstone's history. From Blizzard's point of view, it would be worse to roll out a new set of toys and have everyone agree that they're underpowered. Better to get a little crazy and then rein it back a bit. For now, I'm enjoying seeing Señor del Fuego run the meta once more.