This spring Blizzard is introducing the Standard format to Hearthstone, which will see card expansions cycled out the game on an annual basis. You can read the full details at the link above, and our comprehensive interview with senior game designer Ben Brode here. The first two sets to be removed are Goblins vs Gnomes and the Curse of Naxxramas adventure—that’s 153 collectible cards in total. Many of those are crucial to the top tier decks being played right now, so a lot is going to change overnight.
To help you prepare for Standard, we’ve created a list of the most significant cards which are going to leave, starting with the biggest and working back. Note that spring will also see the release of the next big Hearthstone expansion, which may include answers to questions like: “What the hell am I supposed to do without Death’s Bite?” Or not. The fun part is everything is about to change...
#1: Sludge Belcher
Without a doubt the biggest loss from Standard is Sludge Belcher, the mack daddy of Taunt minions. Prior to the release of Curse of Naxxramas, few players were excited about the idea of a Sen’jin Shieldmasta that spat out a Goldshire Footman upon dying, but the awkwardness of dealing with a Belcher cleanly made the card ubiquitous in midrange and control decks. Don’t be at all surprised if the new set includes some powerful new Taunt creatures to stem the otherwise inevitable tide of SMorc decks.
Will be most missed in: Midrange Paladin, Handlock, Control Warrior
#2: Piloted Shredder
Another insanely powerful deathrattle card bites the dust. Despite the occasional maddening Doomsayer drop, Shredder was so good that it was run in pretty much any deck that wanted to play a 4-mana creature. Which, let’s face it, is most of them. Perhaps our old friend the all-but-extinct Chillwind Yeti will see a return to action, or maybe Druids will start running the less sticky Savage Combatant. Particularly if, as suspected, the combo gets nerfed as part of the forthcoming balance change to the Basic/Classic sets and Druids have to start experimenting with the Beast archetype.
Will be most missed in: Midrange Druid, Midrange Paladin, Midrange Hunter
#3: Death's Bite
Hoo boy. Death’s Bite’s ability to clear out a four-health minion on the turn you play it, then a five-health minion the following turn, plus whatever one-health crap your opponent has on board, makes it the best value weapon in the game. But not when Standard mode rolls around this spring. The impact on the Warrior class is likely to be dramatic. It may mean a return to Control Warriors running Gorehowl as standard, but losing the Whirlwind effect is another blow to the Patron archetype. That deck recovered surprisingly well after the Warsong Commander nerf, but surely it can’t survive this.
Will be most missed in: Every Warrior archetype
#4: Antique Healbot
Don’t like dying? Antique Healbot (the name is a riff on anti-kill bot) is your go-to guy. Much like Belcher, Healbot was an absolutely key tool in decks which needed to stall out the game in order to either outvalue aggro opponents with higher quality cards, or buy time in order to draw into a lethal combo. Recently players had even begun comboing him with the League of Explorers’ Brann Bronzebeard for a whopping 16 points of healing from a single Battlecry. From what Ben Brode had to say in our interview, it seems likely the new card set due to launch alongside Standard may contain more minions with healing effects. Because, let’s face it, we need ‘em.
Will be most missed in: Freeze Mage, Anyfin Paladin, Handlock
#5: Dr. Boom
Not much more needs saying about the good Doctor Seven, other than he ranked #1 in our list of the best legendary cards and a lot of players will be glad to see him gone. We debated whether he needed to be nerfed as far back as last February, and though there’s still a case to say that part of the problem was the lack of other decent seven-drops, there’s no doubt that even with a Big Game Hunter in hand, he was still problematic to deal with. Still, as someone who crafted a golden Boom, I’m going to miss our cackling goblin overlord. I don’t expect to see him replaced with War Golem.
Will be most missed in: Hearthstone ladder decks
#6: Zombie Chow
Bang goes another potent anti-aggro tool. Aside from making that adorable ‘daaaa’ sound, Chow was the best turn-one minion for staving off face decks because the heal he granted on death was almost always irrelevant in the early game. Often run as a singleton because drawing him late on was a bit of a bummer, Chow will nonetheless be a significant loss from Standard. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of one-drops the new set includes. Sorry Goldshire Footman, it’s still unlikely to be your time to shine.
Will be most missed in: Midrange Paladin, Midrange Shaman (jk), Control Priest
#7: Muster for Battle and Shielded Minibot
Okay, we’re cheating here slightly, but it feels correct to group these cards together as they form the backbone of Paladin’s insanely strong early game curve. Muster for Battle might just be the most powerful turn three play in the game right now. Losing the Quartermaster combo is a blow to Midrange Paladin, but losing the ability to curve smoothly from Minibot (which is probably the best class-specific two-drop in the game), into Muster, into Piloted Shredder or Truesilver Champion, is where the real damage to the Paladin class is being done. And not before time, given how dominant Paladins are on ladder. Of course, there may well be equally egregious Paladin cards in the new set, but if not then Standard looks to be a substantial power downgrade for Uther.
Will be most missed in: Midrange Paladin, Secret Paladin
Loatheb is a cool card that it’ll be a genuine shame to see the back of. His Battlecry locked spell-based combo decks out from killing you for a turn, and although originally conceived as a tool to counter Miracle Rogue, he also proved super handy at protecting against Freeze Mages and the Druid combo. Ironically, Loatheb was also pretty effective when used in many of the decks he was supposed to counter. Again, his effect—or something like it—feels like a thing that needs to exist to help keep the Hearthstone meta in check, so I expect Blizzard to create at least one similar card in the new set.
Will be most missed in: Midrange Hunter, Midrange Druid, Tempo Mage
#9: Mad Scientist
If Shielded Minibot is the best class-specific two-drop in Hearthstone, this is probably the strongest neutral one. Of course, Scientist only gets value in those classes which have expensive secrets—so Hunter and Mage—but when that value goes off, it’s often insane. The effect of Mirror Entity or Freezing Trap against Midrange Druid, which likes to play high value creatures, creates huge tempo swings. Hunter’s rotating set of traps—”I’m pretty sure it’s Snake… Oh balls, it’s Bear”—are tricky to play around, whilst being able to get ‘free’ Ice Blocks and Barriers in Freeze Mage is crucial. All in all, another unarguably OP card that was overdue for retirement.
Will be most missed in: Almost all Hunter and Mage decks
#10: Imp-losion and Darkbomb
Another two cards that make sense to group together, because their loss represents a major hit to Warlock’s suite of single-target removal spells. Without these cards, Gul’dan will be looking at Shadowbolt (overcosted), Soulfire (risky), Siphon Soul (slow) and whatever the new set serves up to remove enemy minions. Of the two exiting, Imp-losion feels like the bigger deal. The tempo swing when you roll four Imps can be game-winning, particularly when combo’d with Knife Juggler. In fact, it will be no surprise if Juggler finally goes under the knife himself—he has to be one of the Classic cards which Blizzard’s balance team is considering changing.
Will be most missed in: Zoolock, Renolock, Malylock
Another Goblins vs Gnomes card which didn't see much hype before the set was released, but swiftly became a staple. What most players didn’t realise was how helpful being able to guarantee a five-damage Shield Slam would be. Provided you had both cards in hand, the effect is not dissimilar to Fire Elemental. Which we can all agree is a pretty good card. Additionally, that extra hit of armour coupled with a 5/5 creature often helped Control Warriors survive long enough to stabilise their position. Along with the loss of Death’s Bite, Standard could be off to a rough start for Garrosh.
Will be most missed in: Control Warrior
#12: Haunted Creeper
Good riddance to another of the Curse of Naxxramas Deathrattle minions. You can tell Blizzard had an inkling of how powerful Haunted Creeper was because they opted not to make the 1/1 Spectral Spiders count as beasts. Nonetheless, Creeper formed a core part of any deck that used the 'make some garbage stick to the board and then buff it' strategy. For the arachnophobes among us, the card’s removal from Standard warrants a party. Particularly if you’ve seen that twitchy animated leg on the golden version. Ugh.
Will be most missed in: Zoolock, Secret Paladin, Midrange Hunter, Midrange Shaman, Aggro Druid
#13: Shade of Naxxramas
Hey, who doesn’t like watching an untargetable creature grow to a ginormous size before smashing your face in with his angry tree friends? The Force of Nature-Savage Roar combo is so potent that Blizzard has barely printed any good Druid class cards since vanilla Hearthstone. Instead, Druids rely on picking high-value neutral cards, like this and Piloted Shredder, to help make their combo hit harder. Expect them to use Mind Control Tech, Mounted Raptor or possibly even good old Harvest Golem instead.
Will be most missed in: Midrange Druid, Aggro Druid
#14: Nerubian Egg
This is one of those cards which seemed pretty nuts when it was first announced, and turned out to be about as good in practice. Nerubian Egg is a mainstay of aggressive decks which want to fight for the board early, and have an easy way of buffing the Egg to trade with opposing minions. That makes it a natural fit in Zoo, which can use Defender of Argus or Power Overwhelming, but also Egg Druid, which was piloted to #1 on the EU ladder in December. Nerubian Egg provides powerful insurance against AOE spells, making its removal from Standard one of the more interesting changes to the competitive meta.
Will be most missed in: Zoolock, Egg Druid
#15: Velen's Chosen
Minion-based Priest decks traditionally struggle for burst damage, which is one of the reasons Velen’s Chosen is such a key part of the Dragon archetype. Timed right, the extra spell damage combined with a Holy Nova can clear some of the most troublesome boards. That health buff is also handy when it comes to turning Taunt creatures like Twilight Guardian and Wyrmrest Agent into unbreachable walls. It doesn’t see much play in Control Priest these days, though, so perhaps not the huge loss it once might have been.
Will be most missed in: Dragon Priest
#16: Tinker's Sharpsword Oil
The Oil Rogue deck, which wins with giant damage from a buffed minion and weapon, is probably the most viable Rogue archetype currently seeing play. (Though both Raptor Rogue and some bastardised versions of the old Miracle Rogue are floating around.) The switch to Standard will almost certainly eliminate Oil Rogue thanks to the loss of its namesake card. That seems like a bit of a pity, given that it’s a high skill cap deck which a lot of the pros seem to love. On the other hand, watching my carefully assembled board die to an eight-damage Blade Flurry isn’t something I’ll miss. YMMV.
Will be most missed in: Oil Rogue
I love Voidcaller so much I tried to build an entire deck around the card. That didn’t work out, but the core idea was correct: Cheat out giant threats like Mal’Ganis (who will also be disappearing from Standard) using the Voidcaller’s Deathrattle. It’s such a high-value play that Demon variants of both Zoo and Handlock soon followed. Whether or not to trade with a Voidcaller is currently one of the more interesting potential bluffs in Hearthstone—”Is that Mal’Ganis in his hand or a Flame Imp?”—so losing the card from Standard is something of a pity. Certainly it makes the Demon tribe substantially weaker.
Will be most missed in: Demon Zoolock, Demon Handlock, Malylock, Renolock
#18: Mechwarper (and all other Mechs)
This robotic monstrosity would have placed higher, but for the fact it’s only really used in Mech Mage right now, since Mech Shaman was replaced by the Overload-based aggro version. Mechwarper’s ability enables you to play other Mechs at a discount, making the snowball potential huge if it sticks to the board. And with cards like Annoy-o-Tron to help, that was pretty likely. The loss of the Goblins vs Gnomes set actually means that in Standard the whole Mech tribe is effectively gone. By my reckoning 48 cards with Mech synergy will be removed—including such notable as Fel Reaver, Jeeves, Goblin Blastmage, Snowchugger and Explosive Sheep. Cry your oily tears, Tin Men.
Will be most missed in: Mech Mage, Mech Shaman
#19: Unstable Portal
Ah, the feels when your opponent gets to play Tirion Fordring on turn five thanks to the magic of the esportal. Widely regarded as one of the most lunatic examples of RNG in Hearthstone, Unstable Portal is the ultimate card when it comes to creating narratives. Most of the pros claim to hate it, but you can’t argue with how spectacular the results are. I’m actually not sure how missed it will be from Tempo Mage decks though, some of which have already experimented with cutting it. In fact, I suspect Tempo Mage will be fine. Its only other real loss is Flamecannon, because Dr. Boom can be swapped for Ragnaros or Sylvanas fairly comfortably.
Will be most missed in: Tempo Mage
It’s goodbye to the little RNG spider that could. Most people considered Webspinner to be dumpster tier before Naxx came out, but it became almost an auto-include in Midrange Hunter, which had long needed something to do on turn one. The joy of getting a King Krush or a third Savannah Highmane off your ‘spinner was unconfined, but even in the worst case scenario when you drew a Captain’s Parrot as your free Beast, it still acted as a Kill Command activator. With Brave Archer obviously designed for aggro builds, Midrange Hunter is once again without a one-drop.
Will be most missed in: Midrange Hunter