Memes are very much the fuel of the Hearthstone scene, and the most popular purveyor of eye-watering RNG and obscure card interaction videos is a content creator known only as . Yesterday the game’s next expansion, , was announced, complete with new Death Knight Hero Cards for each class. The release is set for sometime in August, so it’s almost time for Toast to do what he does best: put on some sunglasses and a cardboard bread mask, then set about breaking the game in any way possible.
Since I first met Toast, he’s gone from a relatively niche YouTuber to running a mini-empire that spans Twitch, YouTube and his own resource site. I sat down with him in Shanghai’s at the HCT Spring Championship to find out what he’s plotting next...
PC Gamer: What’s your initial reaction to Knights of the Frozen Throne?
Toast: Excited! Death Knights are something the community has talked about for such a long time. ‘When are they adding Death Knights? Are they ever going to add Death Knights?’ And now, in a way, we’re essentially getting Death Knights—not as a tenth class, but as this new Hero Card, which is really unexpected. But it’s also very cool to finally play some Death Knights. I play World of Warcraft, and it’s a big part of the universe.
Do you like that as a solution rather than adding in a whole new class?
Yeah, and there’s also a few balance issues with adding a tenth class, like the basic cards. How do you do a tenth class? And then the UI, because everything’s 3x3, and kind of neat. I’m sure that if it took them that long to give us more deck slots, imagine tenth class UI.
We’d have to give one of the other classes back! With Un’Goro, the Quests were probably the least successful part of that expansion. What do you think Blizzard need to do with Death Knights to make sure that the mechanic lands properly?
So, we have two playable quests: Rogue and Warrior, and they’re nerfing one of those. So [the mechanic] was definitely not super strong, but we still have two more years with these Quests. You never know when they’re going to add, say, better one-drops for the Hunter or more Deathrattles for the Priest. In Knights of the Frozen Throne they’re adding a whole bunch of Deathrattle cards, so maybe that pushes the Priest quest into something playable. Right now it’s a bit like, ‘all right, I can finish the quest by turn seven and I’m dead on turn six.’ So the math doesn’t really check out. But maybe there are some Deathrattle cards that can push it over the top.
Did you find it interesting that they’re bringing Deathrattles back in a big way? Because that led to a meta where everyone was just playing the stickiest minions possible.
I think they will have learned their lesson by now. I mean, they recognize that [Piloted Shredder], Sludge Belcher, you know, Mad Scientist, these guys set the bar too high and they had to move them out.
What’s your immediate reaction to Deathstalker Rexxar, the first Death Knight card?
I’m excited. It seems like there’s a lot of ways to break it because you’re literally combining two separate beasts together. So I was just thinking about it, for example, can you combine Vicious Fledgling with Stonetusk Boar? You know, just get it out there as a four-mana 4/4. Most of the time, you play Vicious Fledgling and they remove it. It kind of sucks. So if you could just bypass that and Charge it, hit face, Windfury, hit face, Stealth
[Editor’s note: Blizzard has that the upgraded Hunter hero power, Build-a-Beast, can only Discover and combine beasts costing up to five Mana, meaning the maximum cost of any resulting Zombeast is 10.]
Do you worry that the effect is going to be too slow for Hunter?
It is very slow.
On turn six you’re getting an AoE effect and some armor, and you might just be dead on seven.
Yeah, for sure. Why would you price two damage to enemy minions plus five armor at six mana? I mean, it’s not bad. Flamestrike is seven mana for four damage, it doesn’t give you armor. It’s definitely not as good as a single card with that effect. And the hero power is definitely slow because you’re not getting any cost reduction [on the Zombeast cards]. You’re paying a two-mana premium on top of the actual card cost you’re combining. It’s definitely very slow, but Blizzard’s been trying to push a slower Hunter for ages. I’m not sure if it’s ever going to happen. They introduced Dinomancy and nobody’s playing that either.
What did you think of the other legendary they revealed, Prince Keleseth, which gives the minions in your deck +1/+1 provided you don’t have any two-drops? I’ve been playing the Elder Scrolls: Legends expansion, and that community got over two cards that buff your deck in a similar way. Do you think Prince Keleseth is going to be a good, playable card?
Tough to say. Something like this might have worked in Zoo where it’s like ‘hey, let me just play this really early on and start buffing all future minions.’ But a Zoo without two-drops? I mean, you can probably look at existing Zoo decks from before and see just how many two-drops are there and how many are necessary.
I was thinking Druid, where you want to play Innervate or Wild Growth over a two-drop anyway.
You could probably put it in Token Druid too, because it runs so many one-mana cards. I mean, you play Power of the Wild, but this is a Power of the Wild that buffs all future minions. But we’ve got to be careful because we’ve seen an effect like this, albeit on a more expensive body, in Mistcaller. But the fact you can get this on two, or even coin it out, and now all future minions you play are cheap—it can be very powerful. It really depends on what other cards there are.
When a new set is revealed, do you look for meta-changing cards or the stuff that’s going to have weird interactions?
Power level is so hard to judge five cards in, but it’s stuff like the Zombeast, which combines two Beasts, that really excites me. There’s so much potential there to do wacky interactions and break the game.
What is your dream beast combination?
Tundra Rhino plus something strong.
The new keyword they announced is 'Lifesteal', which is essentially 'Lifelink' from Magic: The Gathering right?
I haven’t played too much Magic, but the effect is pretty straightforward. Any damage dealt with the card heals you for the same amount. Obviously very anti-aggro. The Priest one is two-mana, one damage to all minions, heal you for the damage dealt.
Do you think it is anti-aggro? Because I think it could be what lets aggro decks stay alive long enough to kill you in a race.
Yeah, in some matchups like aggro versus Burn Mage where you have very different goals— you’re trying to kill him with minions, he’s trying to kill you with spells—then Lifesteal can essentially beat his damage because your minions stay around forever, whereas his spells, once used, are gone. I could see it working in aggro, but I think the most common application people will use it for is to stay alive. Like the Priest card, Spirit Lash, seems very anti-aggro. Even though it’s only one damage, it actually adds up quite a lot. The swing is going to be insane. Against Pirate Warrior, I imagine it would be really strong—if Pirate Warrior is still a thing.