We’re almost ready to set off on our expedition to Un’Goro on April 6, and as per usual Twitch and Youtube are awash with seemingly never-ending reviews of every card in the expansion. Not wanting to be left out, I did my own alongside fellow Hearthstone Championship Tour casters and , which you can watch in its full glory . However, in the interests of those of you with slightly less than five hours to spend listening to men talking about dinosaurs, this article aims to provide a more bitesize look at some of the most interesting new cards.
135 new cards are coming to Hearthstone in Journey to Un'Goro, and you can see them all right here.
This list is not the most purely powerful cards. We already know that Kalimos, Primal Lord is going to crush people’s spirits if Elemental Shaman is anywhere even close to competitive, and it doesn’t take a master analyst to realise that some of the minions that are big piles of stats with no drawback are going to make an impact. Instead I want to talk about some of the cards that are being underestimated, and others which present unknown factors.
A few of the cards mentioned might here not even be good immediately, but with Un’Goro bringing with it a fresh Standard rotation, these cards will be a part of the mainstream meta for a long time to come—meaning any scary effects could become devastating further down the line, if the floodgates are opened in terms of synergies. With all that in mind, let’s begin with...
This one feels like a fairly safe call. A cold evaluation of the stats will get you some way to understanding that this card is probably going to be pretty spicy. Nonetheless, I still don’t feel like it’s receiving enough attention. Zoo got a bunch of new discard toys to go along with their Quest, but I can’t shake the feeling that we’re going to end up with Warlocks returning to Discard Zoo from the Karazhan era, but with the Quest itself being deemed surplus to requirements. In a classic Zoo deck, small targets to get gobbled up by hungry avian dinosaurs are plentiful (see Possessed Villager or the new Devilsaur Egg), and the returns are enormous. With two Adaptations, you can get Stealth plus Windfury, a 7/4 with Divine Shield, or even, heaven forbid, a 4 Mana 7/7.
Defender of Argus has classically dominated the 4-Mana slot in Zoo. While it’s a powerful card when it lands, it also suffers enormously when it gets stuck in your hand. It has remained partly through necessity, since Zoo needs some sort of defence from the most aggressive decks in the format. However, with the giant Taunt minion Lekkari Felhound added to the mix, that necessity may be covered, leaving the door open for cards like Crystalweaver and Ravenous Pterrordax to see play. Like Argus, they have the potential to be massive blowouts when their effect goes off. And, unlike Argus, they’re okay to drop ‘naked’ if the situation demands playing something.
What a card this is for Druid. My first look at it was during a rehearsal for the card reveal show at the Winter Championship event at The Bahamas. Sat in the green room with all the other casters, our reactions were all almost identical—and contained language that cannot be reprinted on a family website.
As for the actual power level, who knows? But ideas are already percolating. If you can abuse board space to only summon 6 Mana Treants on turn 10, you can immediately pair this card with Soul of the Forest or Evolving Spores to create a ridiculous board state. If you can activate it with Spiritsinger Umbra in play, then you double your money on every Mana crystal spent. This makes curving that combination 4 into 5, although exceedingly unlikely, completely and utterly busted.
The uncertainty is a recurring theme of this set, and the predominant reason why Un’Goro is so hard to evaluate. Complex cards with crazy effects and mechanics that we aren’t already used to. This is a great move from Team 5 because cards with more complex effects lead to more difficult in-game decisions and hopefully push the skill edge for good players up even further.
Living Mana is a card that falls very much into that category, and is likely to make some crazy things happen over time. Until you get Devolved, at which point you uninstall without ever speaking of it again.
It’s a 5-Mana 8/8. 5. Mana. 8/8. We only just about saw Fel Reaver live long enough in Standard to start to realise its potential in Aggro Druid, but this card has the potential to return the meta to that terrifying point. Much will hinge on how effective all the defensive options are at walling Pirate Warrior out of the meta, because this card will fail to race N’Zoth’s First Mate, Patches and friends in spectacular fashion. But in a more midrange or control-heavy meta, this big ol’ pile of stats is going to melt some faces.
You’re most likely to see Bittertide Hydra find its natural home in aggressive Druid lists, just as Fel Reaver eventually did. The ability to slam it out even earlier with an Innervate is going to put a rapid clock on people, and the Beast tag means it fits in nicely with the Beast Druid archetype that Blizzard has spent the last few expansions making sure would have every advantage in life like an oligarch’s particularly spoiled child. Except, instead of going to finishing school and getting a cushy corporate job, it just hits you in the face.
Players have also theorised that the strongest Hunter build might forego the heavily debated Quest entirely, and just return to the Secret-based Midrange style that got serious work done after the release of Cloaked Huntress. In that deck, Bittertide Hydra fills that awkward 5-Mana slot perfectly, and will also know exactly .
Blade Flurry died for this? Again, pro opinions are mixed—Admirable and I had a pretty extensive argument about this card in the aforementioned review. He feels it’s too much health to pay to have a relevant impact on large minions. I feel that turning health into tempo is exactly what Rogue does best. With the class already flirting with a tempo/aggro style towards the end of the Year of the Kraken, this might finally be the tipping point that brings Rogue back to a style that hasn’t been truly popular for several years.
Tempo Rogue is one of my favourite archetypes in the history of Hearthstone. Rogue has all the tools to win through pure efficiency, but you always ride the ragged edge because of the lack of defensive options. Add another ridiculously efficient tool to the arsenal, and maybe other decks will finally crumble under the weight of Valeera’s firepower. As a side note, Blade Flurry on an envenomed weapon will represent a full board clear due to the Poisonous effect, but even that interaction is probably still not enough to justify Flurry’s inclusion in its current pathetic form. The one matchup where this might see weight is Jade Druid, and Rogue is already a big favourite there.
Correction: Now that the set is out, we know that Envenom doesn't work with Blade Flurry. Though Rogue mains seem to be having enough fun with the Quest Deck and plant-based versions of Miracle to mind too much.
Open the Waygate
Historically, cards that with this sort of effect are almost always broken in CCGs. Taking a second turn while your opponent just watches helplessly is, quite frankly, the behaviour of a degenerate cheater. And man do I love it.
In Shadowverse, Hearthstone’s anime-inclined Japanese counterpart, the Runecraft deck which featured effective surrogates for Time Warp, Arcane Giant, and various Mage removal spells was Tier 0 for a while, and is still incredibly oppressive to this day. In Magic the Gathering the card Time Walk is part of the notorious , a collection of cards considered some of the most ridiculous to ever exist and are subsequently banned in all but the most comical of formats.
This Hearthstone pretender to the throne does have some problems though. The initial theorycraft for the Mage Quest deck uses Arcane Giants which are dropped on the same turn as Time Warp is activated, and then an Alexstrasza follows up on the free turn to allow the 16 damage to close out the game. The problem comes when you actually try to build that deck and start to immediately run out of card slots. Once you’ve packed in all the Freeze Mage stalling tools, as well as removal, card draw and Ice Block, you don’t then have room for cards like Cabalist’s Tome, Mana Bind, Babbling Book, and all the other tools you’ll need to actually fulfill the quest. Not to mention that a lot of those cards just outright suck.
Mark my words though, even if it’s not for another expansion or two, eventually Time Warp is going to bust the game wide open.