Hall of Fame is always one of the hottest topics when we’re so late into the yearly cycle. In just ~1.5 months, a new expansion will be released alongside a Standard rotation. All three 2018 expansions (Witchwood, Boomsday and Rastakhan’s) will rotate out, that’s a given, but sometimes on top of a regular rotation we’re getting something else – a Hall of Fame rotation. It’s when Blizzard decides that some Basic / Classic cards (which are meant to stay in Standard forever) are too strong, too omnipresent or just problematic enough that something has to be done with them. They are then retired to Wild format and are no longer playable in Standard. Now, the main question is – which cards (if any) will Blizzard decide to rotate out this time around?
Historically, Hall of Fame announcements came late in February, which means that it’s pretty likely that we’ll see one by the end of next week.
While last year Blizzard has proven that they’re willing to Hall of Fame some problematic cards from expansions too, in this article I’ll focus on the evergreen sets (because going through six expansions on top of them would make everything way too long, and I don’t really see any obvious candidates anyway).
Will We Get A Hall of Fame Rotation At All?
First, here’s an interesting thought. 24 cards in total are now a part of Hall of Fame, which means that they have rotated out earlier than they should. But let’s subtract cards from “Reward” set (e.g. Gelbin Mekkatorque), as well as Genn Greymane, Baku the Mooneater and their synergy cards (imagine those haven’t rotated out earlier – we would still have Odd & Even decks in the meta right now). We’re now left with a total of FOURTEEN cards from Basic & Classic set that have been retired to Wild. That’s a lot. While at one point they were replaced with other cards, most of them are – let’s not sugarcoat is – unplayable.
It means that even though there are still many strong cards in our core sets, the number of “obvious” candidates is decreasing. Omnipresent Legendaries like Ragnaros the Firelord and Sylvanas Windrunner, others that hinder potential card design (Conceal), don’t fit the “class identity” (Mind Blast, Vanish) or simply have effects that aren’t wanted in Standard (Coldlight Oracle, Naturalize)… lots of those are already out.
So there’s a chance that we won’t see any Hall of Fame rotation going into 2020 Standard year. But I honestly doubt that – there’s still a lot of cards that I could absolutely see in HoF. Alternatively, even if not at the start of Standard year, we might get one between Expansion #1 and Expansion #2 – just like we had one in the middle of Rise of Shadows (when Mind Blast & Vanish rotated out). Why they might want to do it? Well, there’s a chance they will want to proceed with the current Basic & Classic line-up into and see how Year of the Raven expansions rotating out will shake things up first. That’s certainly a viable option. They might also do it the same way they did a year ago – have one with the rotation (HoF the most obvious candidates) and possibly have a 2nd one a few months later if something else turns out to be problematic too. No HoF rotation at all is highly unlikely, but I can’t really tell which path they will take.
Assuming that we will get one after all, here’s a list of some potential HoF candidates. I’m not saying that all of them should rotate out, I’m just trying to make some educated guesses based on their current power level, play rate, as well as the types of cards that were Hall of Famed in the past.
Leeroy is by far the most obvious candidate when we’re talking about Hall of Fame. It’s the most popular Classic Legendary over the last few years. It rarely falls down below 20% play rate in the meta. Right now it’s the second most popular card in the entire game, right after Zilliax (which obviously rotates out) at almost 50% play rate. That’s insane. It could have 50% of that play rate and it would still be in Top 10 of the most popular cards.
Leeroy is just strong. Faster, aggressive decks want to be able to finish the game with some kind of burst, but not every class has access to Mage’s burn spells (e.g. Fireball). And 6 damage is no joke – most of the classes can combine it with something to deal 10+ burst damage in a single turn, making it an amazing finisher.
The card was strong, is strong and will be strong, there’s no doubt about it. And it’s exactly the kind of card that fits Hall of Fame rotation criteria. Ragnaros the Firelord, Sylvanas Windrunner or Azure Drake have been rotated out maybe not even because they were too powerful (they were strong, but not game breaking strong), but because they were simply all over the ladder and it was getting tiring. The same thing can be said about Leeroy right now.
One more thing is that it might be hindering some card design. Leeroy is a high attack minion with Charge, so anything that makes you able to replay it a few times, copy it etc. might be balanced within a given class, but imbalanced when we add Leeroy to the mix.
Class Legendaries from Classic set are a very mixed bag. We have ones that have never or very rarely seen competitive play (King Krush). Then we have ones that need the right meta to see play – they have potential to be powerful, but you need to put them into a very specific deck (Archmage Antonidas, Prophet Velen). And finally we have Edwin, which is a completely separate category. Whenever Rogue sees play, you can be nearly sure that Edwin also sees play. Given that Rogue is an Aggro / Tempo class by nature, and its main shtick that separates it from other classes is “Combo” keyword, the class is always getting more cheap spells and ways to generate low cost cards. Be it Lackeys, extra Coins or something like Bloodsail Flybooter, that’s just how the class works. And all of those cards make Edwin so strong. Making him a 4/4 is incredibly easy, and a 3 mana 4/4 is already playable. Now, thanks to all the cheap cards, it’s usually along the lines for a 6/6 or 8/8.
Most of the time, in most of the decks, there’s just no reason to not include Edwin. In the last few years, whenever Rogue has seen play, so did Edwin. And that’s kind of the card that Hall of Fame wants to answer.
Mind Control Tech
While the card sees almost no play in the current meta, let’s go back a few months to the time when Quest Shaman was dominating. Mind Control Tech was an incredibly frustrating card. You had to limit your board to 3 minions for the entire game, or else Shaman could run away with the game by stealing something big. Even worse is that he could snatch not one, but two minions at the time thanks to the Hero Power. The problem was that some of the decks just couldn’t stay at 3 minions, because their game plan was to go wide. Another problem was the RNG – Shaman getting two or your best minions was often an instant game over. And it wasn’t even the first time this card was popular – at one point Druids have commonly played it, and often a 1/4 roll could win them the game after a well-timed MCT.
Every time the card was appearing in the meta, players were frustrated. The problem is that most of the time one player was angry no matter what the outcome was. If you stolen the big minion, you were happy, but your opponent was infuriated. When your opponent had 3 good targets and you missed, you were mad. MCT is a card that has produced lots of negative emotions.
Even if it was never particularly overpowered, and its not always present in the meta, I’ve seen lots and LOTS of requests to Hall of Fame it. And I kind of agree – I wish they will. When majority of the playerbase absolutely loathes design of a given card, I think it would be better to just get rid of it.
Mountain Giant / Sea Giant
Molten Giant was one of the first cards that have rotated out to Hall of Fame. And I feel that at one point it might happen to all of the Giants. Because the thing is, any big card that can be “cheated out” for cheap (or even free) is inherently problematic. Even if not now, there will eventually be a deck that can abuse it and lead to a bad experience. I feel like that’s an inherent problem with having Neutral Giants in Standard forever.
Let’s move just a few months back, when Cyclone Mage was dominating. It was a great example of Giants being frustrating to play against. Final deck lists have usually played both Mountain Giant and Sea Giant, since they had ways to make both of them quite cheap (or even free thanks to Luna’s). And once they did, cue Conjurer's Calling and flooding the board with big bodies. It was often impossible to play against, felt unfair and was objectively too strong (that’s the reason why Conjurer's Calling and Luna's Pocket Galaxy got nerfed). But that’s just one of the examples. Remember Cube Warlocks playing Mountain Giant on Turn 4 and then Carnivorous Cube or Faceless Manipulator the turn after? Yeah, it wasn’t very fun. Shamans flooding the board just to drop 0 mana Sea Giants? Also not particularly fun.
I feel like out of the two, Mountain Giant is the more problematic card, because some decks can consistently drop them on Turn 4, and that’s just something that shouldn’t really happen. Sea one can be stronger in the late game, but it also depends on whether your opponent is playing minions or not. As much as I like Warlock (it’s my favorite class) and I enjoyed dropping 8/8 on Turn 4 over the years, I feel like it’s time to let go and say goodbye to Giants. Because in the long run, people will find more and more ways to break them.
While Northshire Cleric is one of the most iconic Priest cards ever released, it’s also one of the most problematic cards from the class. 1 mana, premium stats and absolutely insane effect makes it one of the strongest cards from Basic/Classic in general. Over the years, Priests have found so many ways to abuse Cleric. The card has insane late game scaling and lets the class cycle through the deck so quickly. Combos like Cleric + Wild Pyromancer + Circle of Healing are just way, way too strong – no deck should draw that quickly and easily. For that reason, I feel like Cleric is a very likely HoF candidate.
The biggest issue is that Priest already has one of the worst evergreen sets. The class relies heavily on expansions to do ANYTHING, it has basically no play style it can fall back to other than Combo (which will very likely be gone, read more below). That might be the reason why Blizzard might decide to keep it around for some more time – at least until they figure out what they want to do with Priest after all. Or at least come up with a good replacement, because simply adding a random “filler” card instead probably won’t suffice this time.
Divine Spirit / Inner Fire
Well, this is the one I’m most sure about and adding it to the list feels a bit like cheating. Why? Because it’s not really my own prediction. Iksar himself has said that they have plans to do something about Priest’s combo a while ago, heavily hinting that Divine Spirit is the likely candidate. Of course, since he said that ~5 months ago, the plans might have already changed, but I don’t really think that they have.
Divine Spirit + Inner Fire is the Priest’s fallback over the last few years. Whenever no other Priest deck is viable, Combo Priest always finds a way into the meta (or at least off-meta). And frankly, after all these years, it’s incredibly boring. The flavor has changed here and there, but the general idea of sticking a big minion, buffing its health with Divine Spirit, playing Inner Fire and hitting opponent for 20+ damage remain the same. The deck have exactly the same game plan, the same core and they’re just as annoying to play against. Whenever Combo Priest gets popular, people complain. It’s simple – it’s not a fun deck to play against, because instead of going for your regular game plan, you are forced to concentrate all of your effort on preventing them from sticking any minions. No matter if you play Aggro, Midrange, Control or Combo – you just need to do it, or else you’re dead. And – of course – it’s boring to play against basically the same deck whenever it gets back into the meta.
Out of those two cards, Divine Spirit is far more likely to rotate out, but I could honestly see them getting rid of Inner Fire and instead activating the deck from time to time by printing a card like Topsy Turvy.
However, I think that removing both the combo AND Cleric, would be too much. They’re both foundations of Priest, something that the class has to fall back on from time to time, and Priest is already in a bad spot around rotation time. They would need to print a lot of broken Priest cards in the upcoming expansion to make up for that, and it’s also not a very good plan (since they would need to repeat it every year). So the only way I would see them rotating both Cleric AND Combo is if they would add some actually strong cards to replace them and not something like Gift of the Wild or Radiance.
It might sound like a joke, but no, I’m totally serious about that one. Devs have mentioned multiple times that Stonetusk Boar is the card they need to watch out for when designing any new card. By itself, it’s harmless. In fact, without any extra synergies, it’s not even playable. 1 mana 1/1 is just too weak despite it having Charge, and while Beast tag might somewhat make up for it in Hunter, the class simply has better options.
So why in the world would they think about Hall of Faming it? Well, because it’s the cheapest Charge minion we have access to. It doesn’t really matter if it has 1 Attack, because it’s simply a way to carry buffs and combos for only 1 mana. The infamous APM Priest was is a good example of how broken the card can be. It was one of the most elaborate combo decks in the history of Hearthstone. Most of players have failed the combo even after attempting it a few times. A single mistake (and you were playing dozens of cards on a single turn so it was easy to make one) could ruin the combo. And Stonetusk Boar was at its center – a cheap Charge minion to abuse the “infinite” attack buff the deck could generate.
And it’s just what has slipped through the cracks. With devs specifically mentioning Boar, I bet that they had many design ideas that they couldn’t implement in the game because they would be broken with a 1 mana Charge minion. Charge in general is a very problematic mechanic in a game where attacking player dictates where the damage goes and defending player has no input whatsoever, he can’t respond with spells, he can’t block etc. But while more expensive cards are balanced by the fact that you can’t combo them with too many cards on the same turn due to mana constraints, Boar has a lot of potential to be broken at one point. That’s why I could see them Hall of Faming it simply to open more design space.
I want to start by repeating that I’m not saying that ALL of those cards should rotate out, I’m just giving out some potential candidates. I also think that class cards should be replaced with something viable, in particular Priest cards. Priest already has a mediocre Basic/Classic set and it already has to rely on expansion cards to do anything.
I thought about adding some more cards. I was thinking about things like Alexstrasza, Malygos or Doomsayer, but I figured out that it’s been a while ever since those cards had insane play rates and were all over the ladder, so it would be weird to rotate them out right now. But I still think that those are some cards to keep an eye on in the future. There’s also a chance that they will, like I’ve mentioned in the introduction, decide to HoF some expansion cards. But as of now, don’t think we have any obvious candidates. There’s nothing like Genn & Baku last year.
And what are your thoughts about the upcoming Hall of Fame? Do you agree with my predictions? What are the cards you would like to see gone? Let me know in the comments!