What will you craft first?
After months of waiting, the Old Gods are finally upon us. The new expansion is live on NA now and hits EU tomorrow, at which point the Hearthstone tavern will be drowned in the eldritch corruption of Warcraft’s most powerful monstrosities. I hope you like tentacles.
The first few weeks after a set comes out are generally the most exciting. Millions of packs will be opened as players get their hands on new cards that they want to build entire decks around. (Here are nine decks which Trump plans to try.) Intriguingly, for the first time deck-building decisions will be coloured by the fact that old sets—Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes on this occasion—will be rotating out of the new Standard format.
To make your crafting calls somewhat easier, and help you decide which of the Old Gods cards have the potential to shape the next Hearthstone meta, we asked eight of the best competitive minds to give us their opinion. Over the following slides we list the 10 cards they picked as the most powerful, in reverse order.
Alex “Raven” Baguley | Twitter
Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier | Twitter
Dima “Rdu” Radu | Twitter
Joe “Ness” Zazzaro-Francis | Twitter
Jon “Orange” Westberg | Twitter
Harald “Powder” Gimre | TwitterNick “Aquablad” Secker | Twitter
Ole “Naiman” Batyrbekov | Twitter
Evolution is a recurring theme for Shaman in the Old Gods set. It’s a mechanic never seen before in Hearthstone, but which has the potential to be game-breaking. The signature card is Evolve, a 1 mana spell that upgrades any minions on your board to be a 1 mana more expensive creature. The card oozes value and analysts and players alike easily saw its potential.
“This card can be very powerful if you can get a lot of totems down,” says Nick “Aquablad” Secker, official HCT analyst for the Winter Preliminaries. “The added benefit is using your minions to clear the board and then transforming damaged creatures into new ones with full health. This is very similar to Master of Evolution, but it’s impact will depend on the board size.“
Evolve’s power level might be so high, in fact, that it becomes omnipresent in Shaman decks. According to HCT caster Alexander “Raven” Baguley, “Evolve will more than likely be at least a one-of in Shaman decks.” It’s only a rare, too!
9. Eternal Sentinel
We continue the Shaman love with this card, which answers the question: “what do you get when you put legs on a Lava Shock?”
Eternal Sentinel is a new early game minion for Thrall that eliminates the negative effect of the Overload mechanic, which will be great news for long-suffering Shaman enthusiasts. Of the pros we polled, the most excited about this card was poker triple-crown winner and Team Liquid player Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier.
“The card has such value and versatility, especially when you consider the synergy with existing Overload cards like Feral Spirit, Doomhammer, Lightning Bolt and Ancestral Knowledge. There’s also potential to combo this with Evolve and Master of Evolution to upgrade its 3/2 body after it has triggered its Battlecry.”
Truesilver Championship 2 winner Joe “Ness” Zazzaro-Francis shared Elky’s enthusiasm and sees Eternal Sentinel as a good fit for aggro decks.
“A 2 mana 3/2 is already playable—give it an amazing effect like this and it should find its way into every Shaman deck. Undeniably better than Lava Shock (as 2 mana deal 2 damage is on a much weaker power level than a 2 mana 3/2) and will only make aggro Shaman stronger.”
8. Master of Evolution
Shaman might be the biggest winner of the Old Gods set, with yet another pick from our pros. Master of Evolution is another value-packed card, with its stats not only passing the “vanilla test” of being a 4/5 minion for 4 mana, but also triggering an evolve effect on a friendly minion. For multi-tournament champion and G2 ace Dima “Rdu” Radu, understanding why this card is such a gift to the Shaman class is a no-brainer.
“Having the same stats as a Chillwind Yeti with a super powerful effect, you don't need to be a Hearthstone genius to see that this card is going to be really good in midrange Shaman, syngergizing really well with cards like Tuskar Totemic or even the Shaman hero power. As you don't need that much setup to get good value out of him—only one minion is required on board—you can compare him to Houndmaster. Instead of giving stats to a minion that can attack to surprise your opponent, however, you will want to play this card on a damaged target to get a fresh, more expensive minion.”
7. Faceless Summoner
Piloted Shredder was one of the defining cards of the post Goblins vs Gnomes era due to its strong body and sticky Deathrattle effect. And while Shredder will be gone from Standard, this new Mage card looks like it might be similarly powerful.
“This six-mana Mage gives instant tempo by summoning an additional minion with its Battlecry,” Aquablad pointed out. “The stats on Faceless Summoner are decent, and combined with the additional 3-drop creature it makes the card represent a lot of value. It may find a home in Tempo Mage, but also any new midrange or control archetypes that are created.”
According to Rdu, Faceless Summoner is so good, that being a Mage card and not a neutral minion is critical for its balance.
“This card is kind of like a better Piloted Sky Golem for Mages,” he said. “If it had been a neutral the community would have been outraged since it would see play in almost every deck, much like Piloted Shredder did. The decks that would use this card might be fairly weak now, so the card might not see much play initially, but expect to see a lot more of it at the end of the rotation if minion-based decks get some more early game.”
6. Mire Keeper
The ability to speed up their mana generation—or ramp—has long kept Druid as a top class in Hearthstone. With Old Gods, they get the Mire Keeper, which is a walking Wild Growth attached to a creature that can alternatively summon a 2/2 companion if the situation calls for it.
Sounds powerful? Team Archon’s Jon “Orange” Westberg described it as one of the jewels of the new expansion.
“This card is, in my opinion, the best card in the whole set, if not among the best in all of Hearthstone ever. Two incredibly powerful effects on a solid body mean that there is no point in the game where you will be unhappy to play this guy. If you thought that Innervate into Keeper of the Grove was annoying to play against, that is nothing compared to an Innervated Mire Keeper.”
5. Call of the Wild
Already affectionately nicknamed “Always Huffer” by the Hearthstone community, Call of the Wild is the late game spell that Midrange Hunters have been craving, and will definitely find a home now that the ubiquitous Dr. Boom is going out of rotation. The card guarantees you a 5/2 charging Huffer, a 5/4 Misha taunt and a 2/4 buffing Leokk, all of which are beasts, generating a solid board for the price of 8 mana and one card slot.
“Each Animal Companion is extremely strong at 3 mana,” says Ness. “And then you have Call of the Wild summoning all three for just 8—a much lower cost than expected, due to the lack of randomness. The value from this card is insane, and it should find its way into most Hunter decks.”
While he acknowledges Call of the Wild’s strength in a vacuum, however, Rdu is concerned that midrange Hunters might still be lacking enough early game to reliably survive till the card is played.
“The only reason why this card is not top of my list is that Midrange Hunter doesn't currently have enough good early game cards to guarantee that they can always make it to turn 8. Expect it to be insane at the end of the format if that problem gets fixed.”
4. Twin Emperor Vek'lor
The hype about the Twin Emperor is already strong with the fans, who have already begun calling the card “Emperor Seven”. It’s the only one of C’Thun’s cultists that’s a legendary, which hints at the card’s power. And thanks to its double taunt effect being relatively easy to trigger, Vek’lor looks to be an auto-include for the likely swarm of C’Thun decks.
One of the most consistent players in Hearthstone, SK Gaming’s Harald “Powder” Gimre, also has a seat reserved on the Vek’lor hype train.
“I think this is just a super strong card overall, making two 4/6 minions for 7 mana is pretty good. The downside of needing your C'Thun to be at 10/10 doesn’t seem like a big deal as there are plenty of pretty good C'Thun buff cards.”
Powder’s countryman Orange echoes his sentiments, even going one step further.
“I actually think this guy gives you more incentive to play C'Thun decks than C'Thun himself. 8/12 stats split up and with Taunt on top makes sure that this card will single-handedly take control over games that you are very behind in, and also guarantees that you get time to play your game-winning C'Thun.”
3. Fandral Staghelm
Why choose one powerful effect when you can have both? Fandral Staghelm, the new Druid legendary minion, is such an obvious, elegant, and fitting design for the class that it almost makes you wonder why Blizzard didn’t design it earlier. While it didn’t quite top of any of our players’ individual lists, Fandral was appreciated by more or less every pro player and analyst we talked to.
“With a solid 3/5 body, Fandral can create some crazy swings when paired with Innervate,” HCT Europe Winter champion Naiman says.
And according to Orange, you won’t have to invest even that much to make this minion worthwhile:
“You don't have to go out of your way to make him good. Living Roots, Wrath, Druid of the Claw and Mire Keeper, to name a few, are already cards that any Druid deck would be very interested in. When you play any of those with Fandral on the board, the cards just get ridiculously strong. Curving Fandral into Druid of the Claw, or playing him on turn six and using Wrath on a minion, are plays that will be very common for the next two years.”
The god of chaos and the ancient qiraji race, C’Thun is the only Old God that made our list. And that makes perfect sense: C’Thun is designed to be the centerpiece of a brand new archetype of decks, offering an easy to achieve and yet powerful win condition. With a host of cultists supporting it, it wouldn’t be outrageous to predict C’Thun becoming one of the most influential cards of the set.
Elky said: “Obviously, with such a unique new mechanic and so many cards designed around it, it is super likely to have the biggest impact in the game, as so many decks will be built around him too. It is however hard to estimate the power of this mechanic and how reliable it will be in competitive games.”
While many would theorycraft where C’Thun would fit best, Naiman is confident that all classes should find reliable builds for the Old God.
“Almost all classes will have variations of decks using this card and they should be successful. The Battlecry is incredible on its own but the card also synergizes with cards like Twin Emperor Vek’lor, Twilight Darkmender and Ancient Shieldbearer.”
And the best part—everyone gets C’Thun and two Beckoner of Evil cultists for free. Sweet!
1. Flamewreathed Faceless
The card on top of our lists sits is not a powerful legendary or a devastating new spell, but is instead a simple Shaman common. Flamewreathed Faceless is a 7/7 minion for 4 mana that overloads for 2 and was unanimously voted the best card of the set by our jury. While the card is strong on its own, it’s further aided by the recent nerf of its natural predator—Big Game Hunter.
“Aggro Shaman didn’t suffer at the hands of the recent nerfs and has been given another powerful minion to add to its arsenal,” Aquablad stated. “With the nerf of Big Game Hunter this card is even stronger. In combination with Lava Shock and Eternal Sentinel, the drawback from the overload can be negated.”
Rdu and Ness both agreed with Aquablad’s assessment of Flamewreathed Faceless.
“This card will probably be god tier on ladder and in tournaments,” Rdu said. “It's a vanilla minion that is massively undercosted and there is no potential punishment because of BGH getting nerfed to 5 mana. In my opinion, the most powerful card of the set.”
“The tempo gained from playing a 7/7 on turn 4 is absurd. Totem Golem on steroids!” said Ness. “The overload for 2 next turn may hinder you from playing Doomhammer on curve, but playing a 7/7 on turn 4 may be the stronger play anyway. Also, the new 2 mana minion Eternal Sentinel can negate the overload effect, which gives even more reason why this card will be present in most, if not every, Shaman decks in Standard.”