Hearthstone's Ashes of Outland expansion released last week, hauling Illidan Stormrage from the depths of the Classic set and proudly displaying him up front with his new Demon Hunter class. As expected from the leader of the Illidari, his popular decks focus on dealing damage swiftly with a persistent army of small allies. He never shies away from a fight either, and is happy to take matters into his own hands and smash directly into your face.
Demon Hunters were always destined to be powerful, although clearly a little more powerful than intended, as Blizzard stepped in just hours after the expansion launched to nerf four of their cards. Despite these changes, Demon Hunters continue to pull ahead with quick victories that stack up to admirable win rates. These scenes of agile destruction have seen Warlocks calling upon the formidable Galakrond the Wretched to quell the early Demon Hunter reign, and serve as a sturdy block on the Ranked ladder for just about everyone else, too.
The meta is usually somewhat volatile during the first few days of a Hearthstone expansion, but I've struggled with prioritising specific tech cards to line my decks this time around. As a Mage, I've settled into the Highlander archetype and all its creature comforts. I enjoy a marginally eventful early game compared to Priests, while reaping the benefits of my singleton build and late game threats. On the occasions where I manage to draw board clears, I stand a good chance against an impatient Demon Hunter.
Naturally, with the heightened interest in aggro, you see a stronger control presence. Resurrect Priests adopt a boring yet successful waiting game which is frustrating to play against, but potentially winnable if you can pollute their resurrect pool. Handling Galakrond Warlock is proving to be far more challenging. Their early turns have them lifetapping for Galakrond minions, while clearing anything you manage to place on the board. Sacrificing allies is a staple mechanic for the Warlock class, but there aren't many downsides to losing a few 1/1 Imps when the other side of the board is filled with towering foes. After mustering the strength to deal with the aftermath of Galakrond flooding the board with random demons, it likely only takes a charged Nether Breath to the face to push you alarmingly close to defeat.
Seeing a Warlock deck rise to the Tier 1 mantle is both commendable and infuriating. The class suffered a long dormant period where Plot Twist and Zoo builds were few and far between, and Galakrond only bothered to grace the presence of Rogues and Warriors. It's logical for Warlocks to perform well when there are so many Sacrificial Pact targets for them to feast on, while their constant stream of smaller minions keep them safe. Their well-rounded structure makes it increasingly difficult for most other classes—barring Druid—to stabilise and comeback. As we head into the second week of Ashes of Outland, here's hoping more decks are able to pivot to counter Galakrond Warlock effectively. Some of us are a bit tired of playing three Warlocks in a row.