We’re currently in the second most fun part of the Hearthstone expansion cycle. The weeks leading up to a new set launching are only bettered by the madcap period of experimentation which follows the actual release. In fact, if you want to be really obtuse, you might argue these are the greatest moments of optimism for the game, when it’s all theorycrafting fun, and not unrefined decks getting pasted by cynical grinders still playing Shaman.
As usual, Blizzard is revealing cards on a daily basis, gradually giving us a sense of what Journey to Un’Goro will bring to the party when it arrives in early April. And, thanks to Yogg’s ever-merciful grace (praise him), we’ve been picked to reveal a card this time. Here it is…
Glacial Shard is a 1-Mana neutral 2/1 with the Battlecry effect ‘Freeze an enemy’. Or, in other words, it’s the baby brother of Frost Elemental. And of course the Elemental tag is absolutely vital here. Journey to Un’Goro will see an injection of around 25 new Elemental minions, many of which have already been revealed. (See below.)
The new Elemental cards revealed for Journey to Un'Goro so far
Along with Fire Fly, Glacial Shard represents another cheap Elemental that you’ll want to run in order to trigger the effects on your bigger boys reliably. More debatable is whether you want to ever play Glacial Shard on turn one. Hearthstone game designer Peter Whalen told me probably not: "A lot of the time, just playing it on turn 1 isn't necessarily the best play," he explained, "since you might not have the ability to activate some of your powerful effects in the future."
Whalen also said that resisting the urge to slam Elementals on-curve was built into the tribe's mechanic. "We designed several cards that weren't just good to play on-curve," he said. "Glacial Shard is a good example of a card that you want to hold until you can use it to set up a good turn to activate your Elementals-matters cards while simultaneously taking advantage of its Freeze effect."
If you have the coin, the Freeze effect might be useful to force favourable trades, but with cheap weapons and hero powers abounding, that’s optimistic. More likely this is going to be the kind of card you use to fill out your curve, buffing up the cards you play next turn while simultaneously gaining tempo by freezing powerful minions or heroes with giant weapons equipped.
And speaking of tempo, Mage seems a perfect home for Glacial Shard. Yes, Ice Lance is being sent to live on the Hall of Fame farm with Piloted Shredder and the not so good Dr. Boom, a decision Whalen said was "mostly about making sure that the Freeze Mage combo deck isn't a major part of Hearthstone forever," and not related to Glacial Shard's arrival. But with Flame Waker rotating into Wild, this could be the time that Demented Frostcaller finally shines. Imagine the sick combos with Shatter and Frozen Cryomancer!
- Water Elemental
- Ragnaros Lightlord
- Dust Devil
- Unbound Elemental
- Fireguard Destroyer*
- Rumbling Elemental*
- Earth Elemental
- Fire Elemental
- Al’Akir the Windlord
- Arcane Anomaly
- Ice Rager*
- Magma Rager
- Frost Elemental
- Baron Geddon
- Ragnaros the Firelord*
* only playable in Wild.
Or maybe not. Shaman also has a high density of Elemental cards already, so don’t bet against the era of Shamanstone sticking around for even longer. I am pretty confident that Elemental decks will work in at least a couple of classes, and Glacial Shard will make it into them. Whalen said that in their internal testing so far, "Shaman Elemental decks lean a bit more midrange or controlling, while Mage ones tended to be a bit more aggressive," but that there were plenty of different ways to go.
To help the tribe along, Blizzard is also adding the Elemental tag to a bunch of older cards, which I’ve collected in the panel to the right. Note that cards marked * will only be playable in Wild (RIP Rag), before Shaman mains start fantasising about the new Fireguard Destroyer meta. But simply adding the tribal tag to already strong cards could give these incoming synergy cards a serious amount of gas, as Whalen said "several of the 'pay-off' cards, the ones that gain an effect for having played an Elemental last turn, aren't Elementals themselves."
For more info on the idea behind Elementals, check out this blog by principal game designer Mike Donais from earlier this week. He says: “We decided to put them primarily in Shaman and Mage because those are the classes that traditionally use elemental magic and summon things like Water Elementals and Fire Elementals. However, there are a bunch of Elementals in neutral and the other classes, so everyone can dabble in Elementals if they want to.”
Whalen reiterated the point, saying that other classes "tended to take advantage of a couple of specific Elemental cards to fit into a deck rather than playing an explicit Elemental deck." He also said Glacial Shard specifically can be useful in decks not built around Elemental synergies just due to its Freeze effect. "Hunter decks, for example, can use it as a powerful tempo tool in an aggressive deck," which makes some sense now that we've seen the newly revealed Hunter minion, Tol'vir Warden.
As ever, let me know what you think of the card in the comments below. I think it’s going to be another hit like this one. It will be interesting to see if either Pyros or Ozruk make it into our list of the 25 best Legendary cards to craft.