By the time you are seeing this, Hearthstone should hopefully be live and playable with the new Curse of Naxxramas content available! The first major update to Hearthstone, this patch brings us the Adventure Mode that has been long teased, as well as – at long last – the addition of a number of totally new cards to the game.
If you haven’t seen it already, take a look at our power ranking for the class-specific cards. We also did a quick summary on all of the newly-announced cards yesterday as they were released. Today, I’d like to look at the five biggest game changers Curse of Naxxramas is bringing to Hearthstone.
Honorable Mention – Stoneskin Gargoyle
1. It is one of the only new cards that has a permanent (i.e. not a Battlecry or a Deathrattle) effect. The slightly below-cost nature of the Minion’s baseline stats is more than made up for by the effect, which will make it powerful on its own; buffed, it will also retain that effect, which could quickly make this a very, very powerful addition to Zoo decks, or combine effectively with the spells in Paladin, Priest, or Druid decks. The ‘restore’ should also count as a heal, which could power Lightwardens up very quickly.
2. I straight-up predicted the inclusion of this card, down to its stats and functionality, months ago. 🙂
Look for Gargoyles to appear in decks where they can easily be combined with other cards to add buffs – modified Ramp Druid, a slightly tweaked Zoo, or one of the many likely to emerge flavours of Priest you will see starting very, very soon.
5. Spectral Knight
This is an incredible addition in the five mana space. There were only 19 neutral 5-drop cards prior to Naxx, and a number of them were hard to justify playing. Typically, the only ones seeing routine usage were Azure Drake, Faceless Manipulator, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, and Stampeding Kodo.
Spectral Knight will be the second regular card (other than Faerie Dragon) and third ever Minion (because of Laughing Sister) to feature the Can’t be targeted by spells or Hero powers effect. Six health effectively puts it out of kill range for any sub-six cost Minion, and easily beyond the amount of damage any non-targeted Spell can do to him. This is liable to be one of the absolute best five drops in the entire game, and will clear many of the other popular options (Azure Drake and Gadgetzan Auctioneer, above) with ease.
On top of everything else, Spectral Knight is also a common rarity card, making him hugely accessible. This is a card that will be making appearances consistently as soon as the Military Wing opens August 5.
I expect disagreement on this inclusion, but I think the Deathlord is a card with tremendous potential. People immediately jump to the potential negatives – “What if my opponent kills my Deathlord and gets his Doomguard out without the discards?!?!?” – but you’re also looking at the possibility to draw out one of the nearly 70 Minions with beneficial Battlecry effects without the player gaining that benefit. Even having the possibility to pull out your opponent’s critical combination cards when they don’t want them on the board, regardless of the possibility that they may get a free Minion with Charge out, is actually hugely valuable.
The card’s design treats this Deathrattle as a drawback, so the Deathlord is massively over budget. He should only actually have about four health at a cost of three mana, comparable to the (rightly) oft-maligned Silverback Patriarch. It has the potential to work out positively or negatively, depending on chance, or you could opt to silence it for an early-game minion that could trade as many as three or four to one without even a potential drawback.
This is liable to be a staple anti-meta card once it is available, having deleterious effects on the viability of Zoo, Miracle, and many other popular deck styles. It would be a poor choice if your opponent is running something like Handlock, though.
3. Sludge Belcher
Curse of Naxxramas is killing it on five drops. This beefed up, Taunt-bearing Harvest Golem is a major gift; unless silenced or removed (not destroyed – e.g. Sap), your opponent is forced not only to get past the initial Taunt, but a follow-up Taunt minion. There isn’t anything even remotely comparable in the game currently, and having a spare Taunt minion spawn in the middle of your opponent’s turn to slow down their OTK or keep your board from being eliminated by a single AoE clear spell is pretty much awesome.
Much like the Harvest Golem, the Sludge Belcher is ever-so-slightly over budget if you include the stats of the Minion spawned by the Deathrattle. If silenced, the Sludge Belcher drops to a woefully under budget value, but that has never stopped anyone from playing a Harvest Golem. In fact, a reasonable argument can be made that forcing an opponent to use one of their precious few Silence cards on this Minion is actually a very attractive play.
Although he didn’t make the list, this is also one of those places where our good friend Baron Rivendare will be immensely powerful, too.
I don’t know how anyone could see this card and not instantly know that it would be a contender for the most influential cards added to the game. Very much in keeping with the design of the boss encounter from World of Warcraft, Loatheb will all but prevent spell casting (as opposed to healing in the raid encounter). On the one hand, some people were disappointed that it wasn’t a permanent effect like the Gargoyle’s (see above); on the other hand, its functionality as a Battlecry is actually better, in some ways, since clearing the Minion doesn’t remove the effect.
Honestly, it would surprise me not to see Loatheb in a huge number of decks. There is stiff competition for the five mana segment of the curve now, as is evident from this list alone, but Loatheb has a hard counter effect on nearly every non-Zoo style deck in the game.
R.I.P. Miracle Rogues and Frost Mages 2014-2014.
Alright, well, let me try and explain:
This card is very slightly under budget for an eight mana Minion. To make up for the missing 2-3 points of either health or damage, or maybe the addition of Taunt, Kel’Thuzad casts Ancestral Spirit on EVERY FRIENDLY MINION ON THE BOARD.
This effect is also permanent, meaning that until Kel’Thuzad is removed, you will continue to be able to suicide your Minions without concern, because you will keep getting them back.
Playing Kel’Thuzad on to a board with Baron Rivendare and running a Minion with a Deathrattle into an opponent’s might be the single most overpowered thing possible in the game now.
My greatest fear in the game, at this point, is seeing a Kel’Thuzad get Stealth.
Would you have included different cards, or ordered these ones differently? Feel free to yell at me about it here in the comments, or over on Twitter. I’m always interested to hear what other people think about this kind of thing!