One year ago, Journey to Un’Goro introduced a brand new type of spells to Hearthstone: Quests. Quests are one-mana spells that always start in your opening hand and when you play them, you start progression towards a quest objective, which will reward you with a powerful card when completed.
Quests are build-around cards, they define the entire deck they are used in, and thus whether they see any play or not depends on how viable the deck archetype defined by each quest is in the meta. Since their release, they have ranged from meta-defining to completely unplayable.
Quests have one more year left in the Standard format, and the release of The Witchwood and the accompanying Standard rotation marks the biggest meta change since Quests were released. Therefore, it is interesting to examine how the Standard rotation and the new expansion affect each Quest and their viability in the meta. Of course, as The Witchwood meta is yet to be shaped, things can still change – as they always will, even weeks into the expansion.
Before we begin, this is a good time to answer the most frequently asked question about Quests in The Witchwood: No, Quests do not work with Genn Greymane. Genn checks your entire deck of 30 cards for his effect, and any odd-cost cards, including Quests, prevent the effect. Quests do work with Baku the Mooneater as they are odd-cost cards.
Druid Quest: Jungle Giants
Jungle Giants Quest Druid never reached a lot of popularity during Year of the Mammoth. However, a combo variant of it was sometimes brought to tournaments as an anti-control deck. For example, MmmFrosty used this deck at HCT Toronto in March 2018, going 3-4 in games with it:
The deck is an OTK combo deck: you complete the Quest, play Charged Devilsaur, play Carnivorous Cube on the Charged Devilsaur, and play two Faceless Manipulators on the Cube. Then, play Deathwing to pop all the Cubes and you have 42 Charge damage going face while the opponent’s board is dead.
Because the Quest only discounts cards in deck, not in hand, there is plenty of redundancy built into the deck: you usually need two or three Cubes worth of Devilsaurs, and there are two Cubes and two Faceless Manipulators in the deck. There is also Kun the Forgotten King, which can give you your ten mana crystals back if it is discounted but other combo pieces are not. There are also three alternatives for the initial Charge minion: two Charged Devilsaurs and Leeroy Jenkins – which can hit face even if not summoned without Battlecry from Cube, giving you another Cube target but also yet another potential combo with Leeroy and two Faceless Manipulators for 18 damage.
The key cards to complete the Quest quickly are Oaken Summons and Cursed Disciple: Cursed Disciple in the only card in the deck that costs four or less, so Oaken Summons will always pull it from the deck, and as it dies, its Deathrattle summons another 5/1, thus giving you another point towards Quest completion. After Quest completion, Oaken Summons can still be useful, as it summons any random minion from the deck, which can be useful when there are only a few cards left and you know what it will pull.
How does this deck fare in the rotation? While the basic OTK pieces are still there and the most important Quest completion cards are still there, it loses a number of cards:
That’s some of the ramp gone, a defensive tool gone, and a key redundancy piece gone: if Deathwing is drawn before quest completion, every other piece you need to use in that game will have to be discounted.
What does the deck gain from The Witchwood? Very little, I’m afraid.
- Duskfallen Aviana could serve as a redundancy piece, but it would have to survive a turn. With this deck, that is extremely unlikely to happen, you do not have the level of board control needed for that.
- There are no new minions with five Attack or more that would fit into Quest Druid.
- There are no new ramp spells.
There is one potential replacement for Kun in the card pool overall: Twig of the World Tree. It is much more difficult to use and vulnerable to weapon removal, so it does not look like a good alternative, but in specific metas it could work.
Ancient of War could replace Dark Arakkoa, but it comes out later.
Would it be possible to build some other kind of a Quest Druid? Maybe. Druid did not receive anything in the expansion that goes well with Quest Druid, so the deck would need to be built with old cards.
The other variant of Quest Druid sometimes seen on ladder is built around Malygos. However, the Malygos OTK again requires mana, and the deck uses Kun to get that mana as well alongside Twig of the World Tree and Medivh, the Guardian – Medivh can break the Twig at the right time, ensuring those additional mana crystals. With Kun and Medivh leaving Standard, that variant faces some of the same problems as the Charge combo variant.
Things do not look too bright for Quest Druid.
Hunter Quest: The Marsh Queen
The Marsh Queen Quest Hunter was all the hype before Journey to Un’Goro was released. Some players claimed it would break the entire game and dominate everything. Others did some math and showed that it would take a while to complete the Quest and even when done, less than half of the remaining deck would be Carnassa's Brood, so that swarm thing would be more of a trickle than an actual swarm.
No viable Quest Hunters have been found in the past year. Right now, the best – and only – Quest Hunter deck that has enough games to get a page on HSReplay has a win rate of 29%. Yeah. That is bad. With any viable deck, it is difficult to lose that much over hundreds of games unless you intentionally try.
The good news is that the deck does not lose any of the cards that allow it to play more one-drops than usual:
The deck also gains some potential resources from The Witchwood:
Can these revive Quest Hunter? At least they are some direct support for the archetype, but it is still unlikely for the deck to succeed.
Mage Quest: Open the Waygate
Unlike the Druid and Hunter quests, Open the Waygate has been meta-defining to an extent. Quest Mage decks are weak to aggro, but have some real power against control decks and are often seen whenever the meta becomes slow enough for endless Fireballs to become a good win condition.
To be precise, there have been two variants of Quest Mage during Year of the Mammoth: the Exodia combo where Archmage Antonidas teams up with Sorcerer's Apprentices to fling endless Fireballs, and the Giants Mage, where free Arcane Giants, Alexstrasza, and optionally Molten Giants team up to hit face on the extra turn afforded by the Quest.
As you may guess, the Giants version is very, very dead come the Standard rotation: both Giants are going away, leaving it with no win condition. I guess the deck could be rebuilt with Alexstrasza and burn spells, but that seems unlikely to be worth it.
That leaves us with Exodia Mage. The deck is losing a number of cards in the rotation:
While the main Exodia combo remains unaffected – and, indeed, grows even stronger with Dirty Rat rotating out of Standard format – the deck is hurt in many other ways. It loses card draw, it loses survivability, and it loses the means to complete the Quest itself, which requires you to cast six spells that did not start in your deck.
Is there anything that can be done for Quest Mage?
Survivability aside, the deck needs to complete the Quest. So, you need to cast six spells that did not start in your deck. How do you get there?
Mage has access to these tools in the Standard format:
- Primordial Glyph
- Lesser Ruby Spellstone
- Lorewalker Cho
- Shimmering Tempest
- Mana Bind
- Ghastly Conjurer
- Steam Surger
- Archmage Antonidas
- The Lich King
Welp. I guess that’s it, then. Technically, you could run two copies each of Primordial Glyph, Ghastly Conjurer, and Lesser Ruby Spellstone for exactly six spells that did not start in your deck. Maybe add in two copies of Shimmering Tempest to make it eight. Still, it is really, really hard to complete the Quest in a post Cabalist's Tome world.
Could you ever afford to run enough Elementals to buff up Lesser Ruby Spellstone? Perhaps include both Shimmering Tempest and Steam Surger for some additional synergies? That looks like the most likely avenue to completing the Quest, but fitting all of that into the Exodia Mage shell is difficult.
Perhaps there will be an Elemental deck that includes the Quest? Not necessarily for OTK, but for an extra turn that it can use to dominate the game. That seems unlikely, but with Elementals providing the best means to generate spells in the game right now, perhaps someone will give it a try.
Paladin Quest: The Last Kaleidosaur
Paladin Quest, The Last Kaleidosaur, is the centerpiece of a buff deck. Unlike other Quests that typically provide lasting benefits, the Paladin Quest only provides you with a single minion, Galvadon. While Galvadon is powerful, potentially even game-ending if it lives a turn, it is still somewhat lackluster compared to an extra turn or huge buffs to all of your minions for the rest of the game.
Quest Paladin has never reached any real popularity, even though some players, such as Savjz, have occasionally returned to the archetype to test its viability. Here is one attempt Savjz made for the archetype:
The above build does not include the most powerful Paladin card in the game, Call to Arms. It has been a double-edged sword in buff Paladin, because if you pull your Primalfin Champions and they die, you will have a hard time completing the Quest.
The deck loses only a little in the rotation:
However, the deck may have a lot to gain from The Witchwood! Sound the Bells! is coming! A strong buff for many Paladin archetypes, it may shine especially in Quest Paladin, because it enables an easy way to complete the Quest, possibly even without Primalfin Champions. Add in Baleful Banker that can shuffle extra copies of Galvadon and Lynessa Sunsorrow into the deck, and we may very well be on to something!
Quest Paladin has so much potential now! Maybe it can finally use Call to Arms effectively, when it is not so reliant on Primalfin Champion. Maybe it can be rebuilt as a Control deck that keeps the board clear and eventually overwhelms the opponent with Lynessas and Galvadons thanks to Baleful Bankers and Zola the Gorgon.
After examining a bunch of Quests that lose a lot in the rotation, Paladin’s is finally one that has a lot to gain.
Priest Quest: Awaken the Makers
Deathrattle Priest never really made it. Awaken the Makers has a big healing reward combined with a big Taunt minion, but healing is a difficult way to win games.
Kibler’s take on the archetype is the most successful one as of late, and even that stands at a below 50% win rate on HSReplay:
Deathrattle Dragon Priest also loses a lot in the rotation:
Most of these losses are felt across all current Priest archetypes: losing the power duo of Historian and Operative makes it that much more difficult to activate Duskbreaker, which nonetheless is a card you’d really want to play in Priest, even more so as Dragonfire Potion rotates out of Standard. That’s a major dilemma for all Priest decks going into The Witchwood.
Deathrattle Priests also suffer from the loss of N’Zoth. N’Zoth was one of the most common ways to actually complete the Quest and losing it hurts. Twilight's Call will need to step up even more to help the deck out.
Alas, Quest Priest gets some new help from The Witchwood:
Not all of these cards necessarily see play, but there is some real potential in Coffin Crasher (essentially two Deathrattle minions in one) and Splitting Festeroot (three Deathrattle minions in one), more so in the former.
Does Quest Priest need to be built on a Dragon core? Right now, probably yes. Duskbreaker is just so good, and Priest loses so much other removal that it is even more difficult to build a deck without it than it was during Year of the Mammoth. Swamp Dragon Egg can help the Deathrattle Priest here, so there is some real support for the archetype coming.
Will all of this make up for the loss of N’Zoth? It’s uncertain, but at least there is a chance.
Rogue Quest: The Caverns Below
In Year of the Mammoth, The Caverns Below was the most popular Quest in the game. Warrior had its time early in Journey to Un’Goro, but it fell off afterwards. Exodia Mage persisted throughout the year, but was never dominant. The Caverns Below was dominant, it got nerfed, and it still found ways to survive the whole year, ending on a high note as an anti-control deck that had ample prey in the meta.
Quest Rogue saw some ladder play, but it shined especially in tournament play, where it was a solid choice all the way through. This is what Nalguidan piloted to top-4 of the last Tour Stop of Year of the Mammoth:
But can it survive the rotation?
Quest Rogue is losing some really good tools:
Sure, that’s just a couple of cards, but those cards are important, especially the Ferryman. After the nerf, you have needed to play five minions with the same name to complete the Quest, and various bounce effects that allow you to take minions back to your hand are crucial in making this happen.
The Witchwood does not have much to offer for replacements:
- Phantom Militia, Walnut Sprite – probably too slow, you need at least six mana to play two copies with Echo, although you could play one for three and Shadowstep it to get two copies for four mana next turn, or play two for six, Shadowstep one and play three for seven next turn, completing the Quest.
- Baleful Banker – probably too slow as well, finding the minion again from the deck takes a lot of time
Things are not hopeless for Quest Rogue – it can go back to running Igneous Elementals again – but it is definitely taking a hit with The Witchwood.
Shaman Quest: Unite the Murlocs
For some reason, Unite the Murlocs could never make a breakthrough. Megafin provides you with a full hand of Murlocs again in a class with poor card draw and ways to make use of tokens, so it should have had all the prerequisites for success. Evolve was just always that much better.
With Shaman being the least popular class in the game overall, Murloc Shaman is in such dire straits that there are no decks listed with the quest on HSReplay. None. Not a single deck has been played by 10 people for a total of a few hundred games in the past month. That’s something.
If we were to imagine a Murloc Shaman deck, what would it lose with the rotation?
- Bilefin Tidehunter
- Blowgill Sniper
- Coldlight Oracle
- Call in the Finishers
- Finja, the Flying Star
- Corrupted Seer
Especially the loss of Finja and Call in the Finishers hurt. Those were some of the main ways to complete the Quest, as simply playing ten Murlocs individually from hand is not a good plan: with low card draw, you will end up spending way too many cards simply to get to the Quest condition.
Which leaves us with these Murlocs available to Shaman in Standard:
- Murloc Tidecaller
- Murloc Raider
- Grimscale Oracle
- Deadscale Knight
- Rockpool Hunter
- Murloc Tidehunter
- Bluegill Warrior
- Primalfin Lookout
- Murloc Warleader
- Coldlight Seer
There are also some synergy cards left:
Murloc Shaman needs some help!
Luckily, some help is indeed coming in The Witchwood:
That’s an Echo Murloc! Unfortunately, Call in the Finishers was better for the Quest, so it is still a net loss.
There is also some speculation that Hagatha could be used in a Murloc deck where all the Murlocs would feed her Hero Power and give you a lot of spells. However, Hagatha’s Battlecry is not the greatest for a Murloc deck, as it most likely wipes your own board. Furthermore, Hagatha comes into play very late in the game, at a time when Murloc Shaman would want to end the game already. I have a hard time seeing Hagatha as the savior of Murloc Shaman.
With Evolve rotating out of Standard, the old main competitor of Murloc Shaman is gone. That said, even that competitor was weak in the overall meta, so don’t hold your breath waiting for Murlocs to stage a comeback.
Warlock Quest: Lakkari Sacrifice
Quest Warlock is another Quest that never gained a foothold in the meta. Infinite Imps sound good in theory, but in practice they are not quite the same things as Voidlords, now are they.
With the lower power level of a fresh rotation, can there be enough in Quest Warlock to rise up? Unlikely, as it is losing a lot:
Those are some severe losses. Malchezaar’s Imp in particular, as it was the only tool to turn discard into card draw and replenish the resources lost. Silverware Golem was one of the only tools to get other beneficial effects from discarding cards, in this case tempo in the form of a summoned minion. These losses will likely make the archetype completely impossible to build.
There are some tools that still remain, mainly:
Cataclysm, in particular, can complete the entire Quest with a single card. It was already the most potent individual tool available, but losing the tempo of Silverware Golems and the replacement resources from Malchezaar’s Imp make it a lot weaker.
There is no new Discard support in The Witchwood. None whatsoever. Sad news for the Warlock Quest, but perhaps good news for all Hearthstone players, as the attempts to force Warlock to play with Discard lasted for years and never produced good results.
Warrior Quest: Fire Plume’s Heart
I mean, come on. You’ve always wanted to play as Ragnaros, haven’t you? We’ve all been there.
Fire Plume's Heart lets you do exactly that by transforming your Hero Power into a two-cost Ragnaros the Firelord‘s effect, tossing eight-damage fireballs to random targets. Early in Journey to Un’Goro, Taunt Warrior powered by Fire Plume’s Heart was a fully competitive deck, but it later lost the power struggle as new cards were introduced in the later expansions of Year of the Mammoth.
However, this is one Quest looking to make a comeback! In the reveal stream, Ben Brode mentioned that a Warrior deck recipe would be a Quest Warrior, and Blizzard has already showcased a Baku the Mooneater Quest Warrior in preview videos.
What does Taunt Warrior lose in the rotation?
- Sleep with the Fishes – board clear tool
- Ravaging Ghoul – board clear tool
- Bloodhoof Brave – hard Taunt minion to use in Priest meta, but otherwise solid
- Alley Armorsmith – hard Taunt minion to use in Priest meta, but otherwise solid
- The Curator – one of the main draw engines of the old builds
- Twin Emperor Vek'lor – from Taunt/C’Thun hybrids, which were never really mainstream anyway
That’s not too bad! The Curator is the biggest loss, as it was able to reliably tutor for two additional Taunt minions while being a Taunt minion itself. Other than that, a couple of Taunt minions need to be replaced and the deck needs some area-of-effect damage.
The Witchwood is here to deliver!
- Warpath is ready to take on area-of-effect damage duty.
- Phantom Militia is a low-cost Echo Taunt.
- Witchwood Grizzly can provide an anti-aggro Taunt minion.
- Rotten Applebaum is a powerful defensive Taunt minion.
- Blackwald Pixie stands ready to refresh Ragnaros Hero Power once you get that far.
- Clockwork Automaton is willing to assist you to deal 16 damage with each hit of your Hero Power.
All of the new cards except Warpath are odd-cost cards, conveniently fitting in an odd-cost archetype.
Is odd-cost Taunt Warrior stronger than one that uses both odd-cost and even-cost cards? There are some major losses in the form of Warpath, Execute, Blood Razor, Gemstudded Golem, Primordial Drake, and The Lich King, but many of these cards are quite expensive anyway, and the deck might just focus on cheaper Taunt minions and getting that shiny new Hero Power online as soon as possible.
There are also upsides to running Baku and having that upgraded Hero Power. Mainly, Shield Slam becomes much easier to use and Reckless Flurry becomes a real option with steady armor gain instead of sudden bursts from the likes of Drywhisker Armorer.
With or without Baku the Mooneater, Taunt Warrior looks ready to fight again. It may not succeed, but a fresh rotation that comes with some new support is the best chance it has had in months.
Winners and Losers
There are two winners when it comes to Quest deck support in The Witchwood: Paladin and Warrior. Warrior is the one that has had the most attention – Blizzard has hyped it up themselves – but if I were to make a bet, I’d bet on Quest Paladin coming out on top of the Quest deck fight.
Behind these two, Quest Hunter is also receiving some more support, but I think the archetype itself is not good enough and this additional support will not help it become viable.
The remaining six are all losing at least as much as they gain. However, with the Standard rotation taking something away from everyone, staying put might be enough to become better compared to competition. Except in competition against Cubelock. It’s going to wreck everyone. That aside, Quest Priest just might have enough tools to survive the loss of N'Zoth, The Corruptor.
Quest Rogue and Quest Shaman are losing things, especially Gadgetzan Ferryman from Rogue and Call in the Finishers from Shaman, but perhaps they can recover for specific niche metas. More so for Rogue, which used to actually be good, than for Shaman that no one has played for months.
Quest Druid and Quest Mage are combo decks that lose some key pieces. The combos themselves are intact, they can still pull them off, it is just a lot harder to do. Probably too hard for the decks to survive, but as long as the combos are there, perhaps there is a way.
Quest Warlock looks completely dead with the loss of Malchezaar's Imp.
Those are my predictions now that we have all the cards but have not been able to playtest anything yet.
What about you? Do you think any Quest decks will be viable in The Witchwood? If you do, which ones?