If you’re anything like me, then reveal season is your favorite time of the year (alongside the first days of a new expansion). With nothing figured out, new cards coming every day, wild theories and early deck builds (which most likely won’t work) popping up everywhere, and that surprise when you look at some card and think to yourself – “what were they thinking when they’ve designed it?”
Sadly, we’ll have to wait two more weeks until the reveal season starts in full force, but we’ve already got some cards and very interesting mechanics to talk about. I’ll take a closer look at them in this article, reviewing them and rating from 1 to 10. The scale itself should be quite obvious, but just to quickly explain how do I see it: A card rated 5 is average – it might be playable in some decks, but it’s nothing special (think something like Plated Beetle from Kobolds & Catacombs). Cards below 5 might see some play in off-meta decks, or as obscure techs, but the closer we get to 1, the lower chance it is that they will see play. When I rate card 1 or 2, I don’t believe that it will see any Constructed, non-meme play at all. On the other hand, going above 5 means that I see this card as something with a lot of potential. While I can’t guarantee that it will work out in the end, I believe that the cards with 6-8 are likely to see at least some Constructed play, while cards rated 9 or 10 are, in my mind, nearly sure hits. 1 and 10 are reserved to the worst or best cards I can imagine, meaning that they won’t be used often.
Remember that with only 6 cards seen, it’s incredibly hard to review them accurately, since we have no clue what other cards will be released, or how rotation will shape the meta. I advise you to pay more attention to the description than the rating itself – I will try to explore some of the potential synergies and reasons why a given card might or might not work. I also encourage you to share your own predictions and reviews in the comment section. Even if you aren’t sure, don’t worry, no one is! There is nothing wrong about being wrong, I have never seen anyone who nailed most of the card ratings before the release. But, without further ado, let’s proceed with the reviews!
First card featuring the new mechanic – Echo. Or well, not exactly “first” – it was already present on Unstable Evolution. I like the fact that they print mechanics like that on a single card to test out the waters before going all in on adding multiple similar cards.
Echo is a very interesting mechanic. Echo cards are generally bad for their mana cost, that should always be the case. 2/4 Taunt for 3 is not playable in Constructed, just like a 1 mana Evolve for a single minion. Their power lies in the fact that they have great late game scaling, as they can be replayed as many times as you want.
Phantom Militia is… by itself it’s pretty mediocre. Right now, I don’t see a deck that would want to play it without any extra synergies. I mean, 3 mana 2/4 Taunt is bad, 6 mana 2x 2/4 Taunt is also bad, and 9 mana 3x 2/4 Taunt is also… yeah, bad. Of course, the flexibility adds a few points – having a Turn 3 play that can be played on Turn 9 if you top deck it. But that’s the thing, this specific card would probably see play in a slower deck, if anything. 2/4 for 3 is too slow for Aggro. And slow decks have plenty of things to do in the late game, they are never really in “top deck mode” so desperate that they need to squeeze as much value as they can from every 3-drop. It might be a solid discover choice from something like Stonehill Defender, but I just don’t feel like it’s good enough.
However, where this and potentially other Echo cards really shine are mana discounts. It was already confirmed that discounts from cards like Shadowstep or Emperor Thaurissan don’t apply to the other copies. But, the permanent discounts do. That’s why Shaman rolling a Radiant Elemental or Sorcerer's Apprentice with Unstable Evolution in hand means that he’s in for a ride. Discounts get MASSIVE advantage with Echo cards, since they apply to every copy. And so, any Echo spell will have amazing synergy with the minions I’ve mentioned.
What about Echo minions, though? Well, they also have their own, cool synergy. Summoning Portal is a Warlock card pretty much no one remembers, because well, it’s not a great one. Paying 4 mana for a 0/4 that you need to combo with something to even get value is not great. But the card might work really well with the Echo mechanic. Let’s take the Phantom Militia example. Normally, on Turn 10, you could play 3 copies. With Summoning Portal, you can play 6 copies. Summoning Portal + 6x 2/4 Taunt on the board sounds much better. You know how powerful can Spreading Plague vs a full board be, and this doesn’t even require any board from your opponent. Of course, you would never run both in a deck JUST to get that combo, as it would be a bit unreliable. But I think that in case other Echo minions that are either Neutral or available to Warlock get printed, it might be a thing. For example, with a 4 mana Echo card, you could drop 3 copies instead of normal 2, and then still have a Summoning Portal up – something your opponent absolutely needs to answer.
I also believe that we might see some Echo synergies, or other things that might make Echo cards more juicy. Right now, I don’t think that this card will see much play, if anything. But it might change when we see more cards.
P.S. Good Arena pick. A 2/4 Taunt for 3 is already playable and just about average (Squirming Tentacle). Adding the ability to play it 2 or 3 times in mid/late game is never a bad thing – top deck mode in Arena is much more common than in Constructed, and this is definitely one of the best 3-drop to top deck when you’re out of cards.
Card rating: 4/10
Another card, another new mechanic! Since they’ve showcased it, I assume that we will see more cards that switch when they’re in hand (potentially not just switch stats). Which is cool. The card they’ve used to showcase it is simple, but also pretty… bad.
Lifesteal is a mechanic useful in slower decks. Fast decks don’t really want to play Lifesteal, because why would they, when they’re the ones pushing damage in slow matchups, and healing doesn’t do much when they face Aggro, because board control is much more important.
So now that we’ve figured it out – would any slow deck want to play a 2/4 Lifesteal minion? Well, I really doubt it. Paladin has Benevolent Djinn, for example, or Wickerflame Burnbristle – both much better and both don’t even see play in slower Paladin decks (admittedly, slower Paladin decks are very rare). Priest has Acolyte of Agony, 3/3 is probably a better stat-line than 2/4 for a minion with Lifesteal, and well, it still doesn’t see play. But okay – those classes have access to other means to heal. What about Warlock, which would love to have as much healing as possible? Well, still no. I’d rather put an Earthen Ring Farseer into my deck. Given that there are a lot of 2/3 minions in Constructed, 3/3 stat-line is just better, and the 3 points of healing is guaranteed, not to mention that you can use it to heal up your minion. This minion has potential to get its healing more than once, but it’s unlikely – even if you got 4 healing on average, I’d still pick Farseer, because the effect is immediate. If you are staring at lethal, playing Lifesteal minion doesn’t do anything, but healing does. Yes, Lifesteal synergizes with buffs, but the classes that need more healing options don’t really have buffs.
How about a 4/2 with Lifesteal? Honestly, that’s even better. Yes, you heal for 4 (assuming it doesn’t die to a spell), but it doesn’t contest the board at all. It dies to a 1-drop. Healing against Aggro is great, but it’s not your #1 priority. Healing is pointless if you can’t clear the board. You will just take more damage next turn. 4/2 minion is not good enough at contesting the board.
Well, so how about two in one? First of all, this is not a “real” two in one. While yes, in the late game, you can somehow control it by just waiting an extra turn, when you’re on your Turn 3, and that’s your only 3-drop, you have to play it no matter in which form it is. The fact that it switches around is probably a downside, because the decks that would even want to consider running it would probably want to play the 2/4 form, as it’s more likely to stick and wouldn’t be killed by any 1-drop. Then, you’d rather just play a Taunt like Tar Creeper. Not only does it save you health (which basically heals you), but it also contests the board much better, and clearing minions is what saves you health in the long run.
So no, cool way to showcase the new mechanic, but a bad card. Pack filler below average Arena pick.
Card rating: 2/10
I actually like this card. It’s a bit hard to rate when you first look at it, but there is a whole other way to look at it. Let’s say that on average you will hit a 3 Attack minion, I think that’s reasonable given that it comes down on Turn 4. You Charge it into the minion, clear it and still have a leftover body on the board. Even though the damage disappears, it’s left as a 2/2. In this case, it’s a bit like Flanking Strike, or even a Firelands Portal, which low-rolled (although you obviously don’t play it for low-rolls). You deal 5 damage for 4 mana and potentially have a small body on the board left. This is not a minion, it’s a removal that summons a minion. Because playing it without killing something is really bad – a 4 mana 2/5 is a terrible stat-line and something you never want to play in Constructed.
Now, since it has limited health, it obviously works best when hitting something with 5 life and low Attack. You can Flanking Strike an 8/8 and you would still summon a 3/3. If you run this into an 8/8, you’ve dealt 5 damage, but you’re left with no body. So while the results of this card will vary more than of the Flanking Strike. If you use it to clear a Doomsayer (with 2 damage from another source, of course), then you’ve dealt 5 damage and are left with a 2/5 body – that’s really amazing. But running it into a 5+ Attack minion is basically a 4 mana “deal 5 damage to a minion” that doesn’t go through a Taunt – while not the end of the world, it’s not optimal.
All in all, I like this card. I don’t think that it’s incredibly powerful, it’s not a card that you build your deck around, but it’s solid. Generally, cards that deal damage and leave a body behind are good, even if the body is relatively small – the Flanking Strike I’ve mentioned is one example, but also Jade Lightning (played even in the decks where Jades don’t stack very high) or Imp-losion (better at 4, given the deck it was played in, but had a potential to low-roll).
However, the one thing that this card might collide with is actually Baku the Mooneater, the revealed Legendary. It seems like Control Warrior MIGHT be a deck it finds its home in, and this is an even cost card, so it wouldn’t be possible to play both. But, since it’s too early to assume that Warriors will run Baku, I have to leave a good rating.
P.S. Even better in Arena than the Echo Taunt guy, this is like a 9/10 Arena card.
Card rating: 7/10
Both Genn and Baku are the definition of build around cards, even more than Prince cards (e.g. Prince Keleseth) or Highlander cards (e.g. Reno Jackson). It’s the biggest restriction we’ve seen so far. For example, with Prince you couldn’t run 2-drops – with this one you can’t run any card that costs 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9. That’s a huge difference. Even Highlander cards were easier to build around – you sometimes had to fill your curve with sub-optimal cards, and had to drop some good ones, but at least you had a curve.
However, the huge advantage of those two is that you get the effect activated as soon as the game starts. It’s not like the other two restrictions, where you first had to draw the card and play it. Actually, you don’t even want to draw those cards, as they’re pretty poor stat-wise.
Having the effect up from Turn 1 MIGHT be a reason to play those two. Another thing is that while you are often forced to play off-curve, you can actually fill your turns with Hero Powers. For example, with Genn, you can HP on T1, play 2 mana card on T2, play a 2 mana card + HP on T3 etc. On the other hand, with Baku, two odd cost cards make an even cost play. On Turn 2 you can just Hero Power, and then on Turn 4, for example, play a 3 mana card and a 1 mana card. So while you are more likely to go off-curve with those cards, it’s not like you will float mana every turn.
But let’s look at Genn in particular. To be honest, I think that upgrading a Hero Power is a stronger effect than making it cost 1 in most of the cases, but the 1 mana Hero Power has some upsides. One of the biggest upsides is the fact that you can Hero Power on Turn 1, so you ALWAYS have a Turn 1 play, even if it’s not amazing. So, this card would work best in decks that a) want to Hero Power often and b) don’t mind Hero Powering on Turn 1. I’ve heard some voices that it might be good in Warlock or something, but I really don’t see it – as a Warlock you REALLY don’t want to drop odd-cost cards like, you know, all the good Demons (Doomguard, Voidlord), Skull of the Man'ari / Possessed Lackey etc. It just makes no sense at all.
The class I think this would fit into most is actually Paladin. The most powerful Paladin cards are even cost – powerhouses like Call to Arms or Sunkeeper Tarim could still be played. Paladin doesn’t have a lot of great 3-drops (Rallying Blade is rotating out) or 5-drops (current Dude Paladin plays Stand Against Darkness, which also rotates out). Given how well Paladin synergizes with its Hero Power, I actually think that we might see a deck like that. No 1-drops might be a slight problem, but would it really? You still have a 1/1 on Turn 1, every single game. It’s not amazing, but it’s not bad. Then, no 1-drops means that your Call to Arms gets better on average, as you’re always going to pull out three 2-drops from it (you’d want to add some 2 mana Taunt, though, because pulling a Taunt from Call to Arms was pretty good). Given that a Paladin deck like that would be quite heavily reliant on tokens, filling the odd turns with Hero Power doesn’t sound that bad. Like, on Turn 3, playing Knife Juggler + Hero Power can sometimes be really good, especially if you snipe something. If we get some even-cost Silver Hand Recruit synergies, then I really think that it might be a thing.
The other deck I could see doing this is Shaman, especially if the class gets some more even-cost Totem synergies. The reason is that Hero Powering on Turn 1 is still solid as a Shaman, as it gives you a body on the board. And then, in the right deck, Shaman’s Hero Power can be really synergistic. It looks like the new Shaman Hero also costs 8 mana, so if it’s powerful, you could potentially see them both in a single deck. As much as I’m quite sure that it might work in the case of Paladin, when it comes to Shaman it really depends on the cards they get this expansion. Shaman is in a bad spot right now, and if they print some great, odd-cost cards, then running this would not work most likely, as you’d prefer to get your strong cards over cheaper Totems.
All in all, those effects are incredibly interesting. Right now it’s absolutely impossible to say whether they will see play, but I can see that they have some potential. We’ll have to see the new cards first, and even then we’ll most likely have to test those out extensively before giving out a final verdict. But if I had to give my rating out right now, it would probably be…
P.S. One thing I forgot to mention is that it only reduces the cost of BASIC Hero Powers. So you can’t go for any crazy shenanigans with Hero cards or maybe other ways to change your Hero Power. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that you can’t play it in the same card as a Hero – once you get to the point when you want to play the Hero, you can probably afford to pay 2 mana for the Hero Powers. But it would most likely work best in the decks that don’t want to play Hero cards at all.
Card rating: 7/10
Funnily enough, this is a card that you would want to play in an Aggro deck, if anything. It’s a bit like a neutral Divine Favor. The idea behind this card is that you run a fast deck and play versus a slower one. You run out of cards. while your opponent clears everything you play with all the AoEs and single target removals. Since you’re Aggro, they most likely could not drop all of their big minions etc. as they’re pretty slow. So you play this card on T7, copy your opponent’s hand, most likely with a few big threats, but now you have a huge health advantage. They still have to play defensively and you can go all in. Not to mention that it stalls for time until you draw more cards from your deck – potentially some burn etc. that will let you finish the game.
That’s the best case scenario. And in that scenario, this card would actually be solid. Yes, you have to pay 7 mana to drop a 3/3, but that 3/3 is giving you a MASSIVE refill. And as an Aggro deck, you might still be ahead on the board, so it might not be that bad in terms of the tempo.
However, as much as the best case scenario is quite appealing, an average case scenario really isn’t. This card is completely useless against Aggro, and most likely bad against Midrange. This alone makes it a questionable choice. But Divine Favor sees play, right? Well, yeah, but Divine Favor costs 3 mana, and that’s a huge difference. Even in slow matchups, this card is not guaranteed to get value. Best Divine Favors come around Turn 5, when your opponent didn’t have enough mana to dump their hand yet, and you’re already running out of steam. Sometimes even playing DF on Turn 3 is not terrible, this one would sit dead in your hand until Turn 7. It’s just super slow and super clunky. In general, you also prefer drawing cards from your deck. When you copy your opponent’s hand, you risk having some cards that require synergies, or Control cards that won’t help you a lot (like copying Psychic Scream and Greater Healing Potion against Priest – well, you can clear your own board and heal yourself, great).
I don’t think that this card is AS bad as some people think, but it’s definitely not good. It would be pretty insane at something like 5 mana, maybe even 6, but at 7 it’s just too slow. Cool card, but if anything, will most likely see play in meme decks.
Card rating: 3/10
Baku the Mooneater
As for the general talk about those even/odd deck-building restrictions, check out the Genn review above. In this one, I’ll focus only on the Baku himself.
Like I’ve mentioned before, upgrading Hero Power seems to be more powerful than turning it into 1 mana in general. But again, it really depends on WHICH Hero Power you upgrade. Justicar Trueheart has never seen play in some decks simply because some of the upgraded Hero Powers were pretty bad. For example – Shaman. The ability to pick the Totem is cool, but definitely not worth it. Warlock? Well, you gain some life, since your Hero Powers don’t damage you. In tons of matches, it makes zero difference whatsoever. Rogue? 2/2 weapon is.. well, meh. Not to mention that as a Rogue you don’t really want to Hero Power every turn, so it loses some value. As you can see, not every upgraded Hero Power is great.
But, for example, Warrior’s one is a different story. Gaining 4 Armor per turn is massive and it was one of the biggest reasons why Control Warrior was so good. Against Aggro, 4 health per turn is huge. They had to build a big board to put you on the clock, and then they’ve played right into the AoEs. And against slow decks, you could build massive Armor advantage and go into the fatigue. Seeing Warrior going into fatigue with 50+ Armor wasn’t uncommon. However, as much as Tank Up! from Turn 1 is great, removing all the even-cost cards is a big downside. Just to give you a few best examples – you can’t run Execute, Drywhisker Armorer or Blood Razor. Dead Man's Hand is also out of question, just like any even cost card that we might see this expansion (e.g. Militia Commander).
Midrange Paladin is another deck, which used the old Justicar. Having 2x Silver Hand Recruit on Hero Power from the start is quite powerful. It’s like a 2 mana Lost in the Jungle you can replay every turn for the entire game. Great, but at the same time, Paladin would need to drop Call to Arms, need to drop Sunkeeper Tarim, and doesn’t have any spectacular 3-drops or 5-drops, meaning that it’s unlikely to see play in that class.
Maybe Hunter? 3 damage Hero Power from the start is really solid. That’s A LOT of burn damage. 2 vs 3 might not seem like much, but it really is. Let’s say that your opponent is at 9 health – that’s a 3 turns clock vs 5 turns clock. Even speeding the clock by one turn is important. But then again, no even cost cards means no Crackling Razormaw or Houndmaster, but I could actually see that working out anyway – the sacrifice might be worth it.
So that’s the thing. Even though I think that upgraded Hero Power is more powerful than 1 mana Hero Power, it might actually be much harder to fit. Most of the classes that could consider running it would have a really hard time dropping all the even cost cards. So right now, I think that Warrior or Hunter might be the only options, unless we see some more cards that will change that.
Another downside is that drawing it is really, really bad. 9 mana 7/8 is basically unplayable unless you really have nothing else to do. It might not seem like much, but it’s a quite big deal. Warrior might be able to afford a dead draw, and it would still be a removal bait in slower matchups. But a fast Hunter deck? Well, a completely dead card is not good in any Aggro deck.
Overall, really great concepts. As you can see, even without knowing any other cards, there is already tons of theorycrafting going on. I’m quite sure that we won’t really know how good they are until we play around with them – it’s just a mechanic we’ve never seen in Hearthstone, so it’s hard to tell if the upside will be worth the deck building restrictions.
P.S. I’ve read somewhere that this card is a reference to Bakunawa, which is a moon-eating dragon from Philippine folklore. That’s cool!
Card rating: 7/10