Hearthstone, while amazing, can present a player with a plethora of difficult conundrums. Given the intended similarities between the CCG and its point of origin, World of Warcraft, the issue of separating ourselves from traditional conventions can be difficult. This is very much apparent when it comes to a mechanic like spell power. We’ve been taught since the release of the MMORPG that the hallmark of the caster is boosted spell power. Sure, Fireball’s good, but what if it could be made better? It can be, young Mage, it can be. Find yourself some spell power and watch as that torrent of flame deals 8902 damage as opposed to 7103.
What’s more, spell power has traditionally been a non-factor for Warriors, Rogues and Hunters. Yet, here we are in the Hearthstone closed beta, where it’s all too common to watch as a Rogue, riding Gadgetzan Auctioneer, deals 18 points of damage on a single turn through boosted direct damage spells. I’ve even had the misfortune of running into a turn four Kobold Geomancer + Cleave, essentially turning the Warrior creature hate spell into the Hunter ability Multi-shot, all while providing a 2/2 minion on the board.
Given the incredible edge spellpower can give just about every deck, what are the rules when it comes to running minions that give buffed spell power? Should you just slather the board in them? The answer might actually surprise you. I’ve been a proponent of ‘going hard’ on any strategy you come up with. If you’re being aggressive, be aggressive all day. If you’re going for control, pick up stall spells and tanky, enduring minions, don’t try and run low cost, high damage creatures. When it comes to spell power though, less might be more, and here’s why.
There are a lot of minions in the game that feature inherent benefits upon being summoned. Elven Archer, despite its cheap price tag and low cost, is always going to deal one damage upon joining the fray, even if she’s sniped by a Hunter trap. Ironbeak Owl, one of the best cards in the game, will silence a minion, in so long as there’s a minion on the board. If you’ve got minions to buff, Defender of Argus will buff them. They might not have the mightiest of stats, but these minions are reliable, and you know what you’re getting from them. Spell power minions work somewhat differently.
Archmage, a 4/7 minion for six mana features a +1 spell power mechanic, effectively buffing most spells that feature some kind of number on them. Beyond that, he’s a decently tanky minion that, for six mana, but he doesn’t hit very hard. What’s more, his expensive price tag (60% of your total mana pool from turn 10 on) means that, after bringing him out, you’ll have all of four mana to play with on that turn. Yes, that could be one spell, but if Archmage is taken down on the next turn by a kill spell, Sap, silence et cetera, what have you really bought yourself? Essentially, one bonus damage for six mana. He doesn’t taunt, he doesn’t have charge, and if your hand doesn’t have a four mana spell, he’s a dicey gamble.
Conversely, Kobold Geomancer costs two mana, features +1 spell power and is a rugged 2/2 for two in the early game. If he survives, he’ll be able to effectively tangle with early game aggressors, such as Faerie Dragon, Leper Gnome, Wolf Rider, et cetera. If he doesn’t survive, it’s only two mana out the window. If you draw him late, he can easily be comboed with a couple of spells, or used to boost a devastating area of effect spell such as Hellfire or Blizzard to even more absurd heights.
There general rule to remember when it comes to spell power minions is, the lower the mana cost, the less risk is involved. Kobold Geomancer, Dalaran Mage and even Ogre Magi are all solid cards, despite only featuring a +1 spell power. Azure Drake is amazing because, for one more mana than Ogre Magi, you get essentially the same minion, but with the added bonus of extra card draw, and that’s huge. It makes the Drake the awesome hybrid of Gnomish Inventor and Ogre Magi. Legendary Bloodmage Thalnos is the best, though. His two mana price tag awards a player a card upon death (unless silenced) and some extra spell power. Again, go for the low cost options, cast your spells on the same turn and enjoy some guaranteed returns on these minions. Playing one and banking on it surviving until the next turn is just never smart, considering all the creature hate floating around the game.
Beyond mana issues, there’s also the question of, ‘what do I actually get out of the minion?’. I made mention of it with Archmage, but none of standard spell power minions feature much in the way of an actual punch, or noteworthy combat mechanics. Ogre Magi’s a good midgame brawler, but that’s about it. If your caster deck is crammed full of spells, giving up four to ten spots for spell power minions ensures that you’ll have little in the way of protective creatures, and unless you’re planning to run your opponent over, you’ll be incredibly vulnerable while you try and get card advantage and control of the board.
This is not to say that spell power minions are not good. They are incredible, and can help any deck attain victory on the battlefield. Their caveat is that they require a little more thought than other minions. Sen’jin Shieldmasta is just plain good. Hogger, just plain good. Even Questing Adventurer features a very linear path to being successful. Spell power minions require some more thought though, similar to minions that give other creatures charge. They’ll be amazing if played on the correct turn, or after after securing board control. However, if they’re just being tossed down to hold the line, they’ll easily flounder because of their somewhat pitiable statlines. Larger bruisers will make short work of them, and probably live to tell the tale, giving your opponent a card advantage, on top of board control.
In short, when it comes to spell power minions, look over your deck. What spells are you trying to maximize? Fireball? Drain Life? Mortal Strike? Lightning Bolt? Swipe? Headcrack? Figure that out and run appropriate spell power minions, along with a combination of other, more muscled, or threatening minions. Finding the balance will result in a deck that hits hard with spells when it needs to, but isn’t totally vulnerable to more combat oriented strategies.