Hopes are high that Rastakhan’s Rumble, the next Hearthstone expansion, will shake up the meta game in a way which The Boomsday Project ultimately failed to. With all the cards now revealed, and only a few days to go until the 4 December launch, we’re now in a position to gauge the raw power level of the set and its synergies.
In this piece I’ve picked out 10 cards which I think will make the greatest impact. I’ve focused on a mix of cards which are straight up OP, could lead to new deck archetypes, or be the cornerstone of devastating new combos. You can watch my full set review on my Twitch channel, where you’ll usually find me menacing the top 100 with various rogue builds.
This weapon is so powerful that I’d go as far as to suggest this is one of those class—and even meta—defining cards of the set. A two-mana 3/2 weapon is an insanely strong card, as we know from pre-nerf Fiery War Axe, and there are going to be many games you can make this weapon even better than that.
The go-to comparison for this card in many minds would be Spirit Claws. And because of that, they might assume Likkim will be weak. What makes Spirit Claws inferior, however, is that at two mana it can no longer be played on turn 1 into a high-roll Spell Damage Totem on turn 2. Likkim’s Overload requirement is far more controllable and consistent in that respect, because playing a single Overload spell turns the effect on for two consecutive turns.
A buffed Likkim gives you tempo, board control, and face damage. It can fit into Even, Shudderwock, and Aggressive decks. Combining raw power with flexibility and synergy is a recipe for a powerful card you can expect to see plenty of play.
Mana is one of the most important resources in Hearthstone. Cards that ‘cheat’ mana, by giving you more than you should have, are usually powerful and cause a lot of trouble because they fundamentally break the rules and make players have a bad time. I’m expecting that, if Loatheb taught us anything, pushing nana in the opposite direction will have a similarly large effect.
Make no mistake: this card is not as powerful as Loatheb, as playing Mojomaster will be a liability against aggressive decks most of the time. However, given that it’s neutral and the effect is powerful, I expect the card to still make its way into many decks.
Taking mana away from your opponent can prevent a Psychic Scream turn, or Shudderwock, or Ultimate Infestation, or a Death Knight. Zihi may fundamentally make people rethink the ways decks are built if it’s common enough, shaving the top end off of Mana curves.
Speaking of cheating Mana, here’s a large minion with an immediate impact that lets you do much more during a single turn than you rightfully should be able to. Do you want to put a zero mana 3/12 with Taunt into play? How about a free 8/8 with Charge? If so, then Oondasta is your new best friend in Deathrattle Hunter. For even more fun and interactivity, you can use Kathrena to cheat Oondasta into play, then use Oondasta to cheat another beast into play. That’s a big beast, yikes.
But the fun doesn’t stop with Hunter. How about using this card in Druid to cheat out 12/12s that can’t be targeted? Maybe even something as trivial as a 7/7 Charged Devilsaur. These Beasts will all have synergy with Witching Hour as well, enabling you to double-dip on how much mana you cheat.
Maybe Odd Warrior even wants to play this. It adds a way to put Direhorns into play and even helps you get Baku onto the board while removing your opponent's stuff. No, definitely can’t think of any reason why this card will get complained about in the near future.
Sticking with the theme of mana cheating, here’s another card that enables you to degenerate things early. Why bother paying nine mana for that Oondasta or 10 for Tyrantus when you can pay six for both? Did I mention that Juicy Psychmelon can ensure you draw both cards (and others) with great consistency? And then there’s the previously mentioned Witching Hour to bring them back again. Throw in some good Druid cards, Cubes and/or Faceless Manipulators, and you can get a lot of work done.
This package sounds so good, in fact, that I’d say it poses a very real chance of creating an entirely new archetype within Druid. That’s predicting a lot, considering what Druids can already do, meaning any new deck needs to be as strong or better. To even be thinking about new Druid archetypes that might work in the class is a scary thing indeed.
Have I made it clear that cheating mana is good yet? Back when Patches was released, I debated whether it was the best card in the game, or whether the pre-nerf Innervate was. While I didn’t come to a firm conclusion, that ‘two-free mana’ is an effect good enough to be in contention for best card in the game should say a lot.
Here’s another card that helps put minions into play long before they should be available. This time it’s limited to Mage Elementals but, in combination with Scorch (another new mana-cheating card for that deck), this card is so good it may single-handedly make Elemental Mage a real deck. It might not be a Tier 1 deck, but Elemental Evocation is good enough to breathe life into a deck that sees no play right now.
If that doesn’t scream "this card is good," I don’t know what does.
This card has so much potential it has made me rethink how almost every one of my Rogue decks will be built. “Draw three specific cards” for three mana (or for zero mana, in conjunction with Preparation) makes me very excited.
Raiding Party provides a way for Kingsbane decks to find their weapon and their buff cards more consistently. It allows Deathrattle decks to drop Shinyfinders for Keleseth, still find their Necrium Blades, and now also tutor Dread Corsairs that have obvious synergy with it. It allows Malygos Rogue an additional non-minion way to find their weapon while making their Elven Minstrels maximally efficient.
Ironically, the one deck this card looks the weakest in to me is Pirate Rogue, simply because there aren’t a ton of weapons that deck is really looking to draw, limiting its usefulness, and the Pirate package itself doesn’t have me sold as being reliably better than other things Rogue can do.
Spirit of the Tiger
In case I haven’t driven the point home enough yet, here’s another way to abuse free mana. As a good example, consider Arcane Tyrant. When decks get a chance to play a zero cost 4/4, they often do so, and it tends to work out pretty well. Spirit of the Tiger lets you do that, plus much more.
Allow me to explain what’s so good about this card. Because of the stealth, this minion is unlikely to die the turn it comes out unless your opponent has a very specific answer. That provides you the opportunity to play a buff spell like Blessing of Kings on your still-alive Spirit. Not only is landing Kings almost always good, but now it comes with an additional bonus. Effectively, the card reads: “Draw and play a zero cost 4/4 minion.” The benefits get even larger using Spikeridge Steed, and it gives you tempo after setting up an Equality/Consecrate combo. Did I mention it’s also even-costed and so fits into even Paladin that plays all those cards already?
This card is so powerful it becomes a ‘must-kill’ target and, given its stealth, your opponent may frequently struggle to do that. Looks very promising.
Several years ago, Mad Scientist was one of the best cards in the game. At two mana, the 2/2 body with a Deathrattle of "Draw and Play a Secret" offered outstanding value and tempo. While this card is not on quite the same level, there is a lot of room for a card to be worse than Mad Scientist and still be very good.
Masked Contender has that same effect, but as a Battlecry (which is better), and gains two additional health for one more mana and the condition that you have a secret in play (which is more awkward). However, there already is a Secret Hunter deck that play a large variety of them, some of which your opponent cannot interact with on turn two (like Snake Trap, if you don’t have a minion for them to attack).
With lots of secrets in the deck already, Contender seems to slot right in, and the tempo push it provides can be massive. The effect is worth a lot of mana, so getting it for free will pretty much always be good.
Hearthstone is usually a game of tempo: I put more stats on the board for less mana than you, dictate what trades happen, and then get to hit your hero in the head as a result. Saronite Taskmaster offers a lot of stats for its cost early in the game, which should immediately raise an eyebrow.
You will usually have to “pay” for those stats in future tempo losses when the Taskmaster dies, but there are ways of getting around that. Void Ripper comes to mind, allowing you to painlessly remove the 0/3 Taunt you give your opponent. While you’re in the process of making and killing extra minions, you might also want to consider the discount that will give to Corridor Creeper. Those cards are both already being run in Baku decks, which tend to be aggressive, so Taskmaster seems a natural fit.
Slower decks may also be interested in playing Taskmaster for the same reason they used to play Zombie Chow. While Taskmaster is better for Aggro and worse for Control than Chow, the card’s potential use in many decks makes it a strong contender to craft early.
Daring Fire Eater
Let’s end by talking about something other than mana cheating: good old flexibility. While the Fire Eater might not seem like a big deal at first glance, I think the benefits are substantial enough to make it low-key strong throughout the Mage class.
As an aggro option, it offers cheap burn that leaves a body behind. Nothing outstanding, but more burn is usually welcome. The real place where this shines is within the Big Spell Mage archetype. First, it can provide early-game, single-target removal that doesn’t come in the form of a spell. It's like a Frostbolt that doesn’t make your Dragon’s Fury worse. That plugs an important hole in the deck's plan. When in Jaina mode it also places more minions within your hero power range while providing you yet another minion to ping off yourself.
Then there’s also the potential synergy to think about with the new Spirit of the Dragonhawk, which can provide that same deck access to early-game AoE effects that are, again, not spell-based. In combination with Fire Eater, you also have a sort of Shooting Star combo, allowing you to kill even more things.
It can also help enable Odd Mage, to some extent, and make the Ragnaros-summoning Jan'alai a bit more of a real card. While these last two are fringe uses, the sheer utility of this card makes me think there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Better Than It Looks Award
There are many cards shaping up to be strong in Rastakhan's Rumble, but not all of them are going to be contenders to break the meta. Some are just quietly good, or at least substantially better than people give them credit for. This might be because the effects aren’t that flashy, but they pull their weight just fine—think of current cards like Shroom Brewer or Plated Beetle.
While there are many cards I could nominate here, I’ll stick to Spellzerker. Comparable to a cards like Amani Berserker and Evolved Kobold which have both seen some constructed play based on their simple effects, I think this new two-drop is an attractive offering for some Mage and Rogue decks.
+2 Spell Damage is very threatening, and this comes stapled to a body which passes the vanilla mana-to-stat test. It can be used for burst combos, tempo swings, or even just as an early-game River Croc. I see it being similar in power level and applications to cards that have seen play, but offering a surprising amount of flexibility.