Murder at Castle Nathria, the second expansion of the Year of the Hydra (2022), was released yesterday. While it didn’t come with any rotation, it still added 135 new cards to the game, which should shake up the meta significantly. We’re also getting a completely new card type called Locations – how much impact they will have on the game is hard to measure, but devs have confirmed that it’s a permanent addition, so even if they don’t take off right now, they probably will at some point in the future. So it’s only natural that all of those changes have shuffled the meta (at least the early one). Just after Day 1, we’ve already seen a bunch of new, interesting builds. But are they any good? Did we already see any huge surprises, or maybe the new Tier 1 decks are yet to be discovered?
I’ve spent most of the first 24h of expansion watching pro player streams and social media, adding their decks to the site (as well as playing some matches with the most promising builds myself), so I have a quite good idea of what’s commonly played, which decks get solid results and which builds have a chance to become a part of the meta. Below, I’ll list some of the lists that caught my attention. Just like every new expansion, remember that the early meta is very chaotic and it might look completely different in a few days. Decks are chosen based on my ladder experience, watching the steamers & pros, talking with other high ranked players and early statistics from sites like HSReplay.net.
These decks are only example lists – meta is adjusting very quickly and more optimized builds might be out at the time you’re reading it! The order of decks below is not indicative of their strength.
The most dominating deck from Day 1 is Imp Warlock, and it’s honestly not even close. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the #1 deck later into the expansion – while I have no doubts that it’s going to be good, its early domination might have something to do with it being an aggressive deck facing a generally unoptimized line-up. Yes, Imp Warlock decks also aren’t optimized – players are certain on ~24 cards, but there are still a few points of contest. For example, do you play Dreadlich Tamsin or not? Sea Giants or no? Maybe some techs like Blademaster Okani or Smothering Starfish? Those questions will surely get clarified once we get more stats.
As for the deck’s gameplay, you could call it an old-school Zoo Warlock, but on steroids. It creates wider boards, bigger minions, and even draws much better thanks to the Impending Catastrophe. The only issue is that it has no reach – like at all. Opponent could be at 1 health and you have no way to kill them from hand. But I don’t think that’s a problem given how you can refill your board basically every turn since T3-T4, and then any Imp left on the board possessed a deadly threat. Even a tiny 1/1 can become huge when opponent floods the board with more Imps and drops Vile Library.
Long story short, while Imp Warlock might drop some ranks as the meta settles and people stop testing bad, greedy decks… I think that the deck’s overall power is just too high to not have any meta presence afterwards.
- 1Batty Guest2
- 2Castle Kennels2
- 2Doggie Biscuit2
- 2Frenzied Fangs2
- 2Quick Shot2
- 2Spirit Poacher2
- 3Harpoon Gun2
- 3Ramming Mount2
- 3Stag Charge2
- 3Wild Spirits2
- 4Azsharan Saber1
- 4Houndmaster Shaw1
- 5Pet Collector2
- 6Beaststalker Tavish1
- 7Huntsman Altimor1
- 7Mountain Bear2
- 9King Krush1
Hunter was already doing pretty well last expansion, and so far it looks like the Wildseed package has boosted its capabilities. Virtually every Hunter decks runs some Wilseed cards right now. I decided to feature two lists. First one is basically the pre-Nathria Big Beast Hunter, just with some new cards, including the Wildseeds. And the second one is a Face Hunter with added Wildseeds and Collateral Damage (which has insane synergy with Twinbow Terrorcoil – you can nearly OTK your opponent that way, assuming they are even alive at that point.
But how good the package is, exactly? Well, it’s a bit mixed, because it depends on the luck. But if you get lucky – it’s absolutely insane. The thing is – 3/1 with Rush is weak, while useful sometimes, the stats are just too low and Hunter usually doesn’t want to trade. 2/5 with Taunt is… okay. You aren’t unhappy when you get it, but you aren’t thrilled either. However, the Stag is simply insane. Not only you get a pretty big minion (5/4), but also a 4/2 weapon. That’s 8 extra damage – and extra damage is something Hunter loves. If you play multiple Wildseed cards, at times you can chain the weapon 2-3 times. You sacrifice some initial tempo to become an unstoppable damage machine later.
And because of that, the package found its way into many decks. Big Beast Hunter, Face Hunter, but also a sort-of standalone Wildseed Hunter. We’ll see how well it holds up, but I believe that Hunter might be doing pretty well in this set.
Skeleton/Hero Power Mage
This entry is a bit tricky. Mage is looking really well after the first day, but looking at the early stats, it seems that it’s doing so well mostly thanks to the Hero Power core, not the Skeleton package. While yes, some of the Skeleton cards are really good (Nightcloak Sanctum is just OP, I said it), decks running the rest of package (e.g. Deathborne, Kel'Thuzad, the Inevitable) seems to be performing roughly similar to the builds that don’t run them. Why is that? Well, it’s because in both cases, the deck’s power comes from constant board stalls combined with the ability of Magister Dawngrasp to win almost any late game matchup. After just a few pings on the right targets, you’re looking at 8-10 damage Hero Powers you can easily use to kill your opponents while they hopelessly struggle to attack with any minion.
It’s true that Deathborne and Kel’thuzad add some extra late game damage potential, and are specially useful in case you don’t find Dawngrasp. Sometimes you can win the game just with your 2/2 Skeletons taking over the board while getting chip damage here and there. On the other hand, if you don’t run the package, you can fit some other cards like Frozen Touch or Solid Alibi that either give you more reach or stall the game for even longer.
No matter which version ends up dominating, one thing is sure – Magister Dawngrasp is an amazing win condition that can nearly single-handedly close out matches.
- 0Aquatic Form2
- 1Dozing Kelpkeeper2
- 1Druid of the Reef2
- 1Living Roots2
- 1Planted Evidence2
- 2Capture Coldtooth Mine2
- 2Moonlit Guidance2
- 2Natural Causes2
- 2Thorngrowth Sentries2
- 3Wild Growth2
- 4Widowbloom Seedsman2
- 5Flipper Friends2
- 5Wildheart Guff1
- 7Scale of Onyxia2
- 7Topior the Shrubbagazzor1
- 8Miracle Growth2
The deck is a mix of Token Druid and Ramp Druid, with a bit of a Combo deck added in. Most of your deck is dedicated to one thing – drawing Sire Denathrius and then buffing it as much as you can. You can tutor Denathrius with Capture Coldtooth Mine (guaranteed), Moonlit Guidance (not guaranteed, but if you discover Denathrius straight up as opposed to Mine, you end up with an extra one, which is a big deal), Aquatic Form or through natural draw. After you have Denathrius, all you need to do is stay alive. You don’t need to win on the board, you don’t need to get any big minions in play – as long as you more or less keep your opponent’s board clean, you’re in a great spot. Because most of your board clears are minion-based, in the process, you end up Infusing Daddy D a lot. The synergy between Denathrius and Topior the Shrubbagazzor is also quite insane – 3/3’s you summon are minions, so each one will also Infuse.
Now, what’s your win condition? After you get to 20+, you can start looking for an opportunity to just kill your opponent. One way is by clearing the board and then just dropping Denathrius – simple, but sometimes that’s all it takes. Other options include Brann Bronzebeard shenanigans – you can either play Kael'thas Sinstrider + Brann + Denathrius, or straight up Brann + Denathrius if you have 13 Mana Crystals thanks to Guff. While you still have to take minion health into account, a Denathrius that’s over 20 is often enough to kill your enemy, and it’s not hard to get there (Scale of Onyxia + Flipper Friends while he’s in your hand gets you to 18 already, for example).
Alternatively, if you run a list with Insatiable Devourer (like the one I featured), you can also swing the board and win that way. For example, if your opponent drops 2-3 big minions, you can eat them and end up with let’s say 20/20 yourself. If they have no answer – GG.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The deck is very susceptible to early aggression – especially from something like Imp Warlock, which can build a wide board with 1-2 big minions before you can even ramp up. It might also turn out that the Celestial Alignment version is just better, like it was last expansion, but it’s too early to tell. I expect Druid to be in a similar spot as pre-Nathria – it probably won’t dominate, but it has enough tools to stay relevant.
Before you jump into the game with this deck, I have to warm you – early stats put it as one of the WORST decks in the game right now. So why am I even putting it on this list? Because I think it has potential. It’s an incredibly difficult deck – best players sort of know how to play an average deck after a few games. With this one, some have played 30+ games and still have no idea what they’re doing at time. It reminds me a bit of Garrote Rogue – a deck that wasn’t really a problem for general population, because only pro players have mastered it after sometimes hundreds of games. And then it dominated – it was present all over high Legend and in tournaments. Will the new Miracle Rogue be the same? Well, it’s anyone’s guess at this point – but I believe it might.
The idea behind the deck is to play Coins. Lots of Coins. You get Coins from Loan Shark shenanigans – drawing them with Sketchy information, killing off with Shattershambler, preferably with Snowfall Graveyard active. Once you get enough Coins, you get a massive Auctioneer turn, draw tons of cards, probably get even more Coins as a result, and then use your Sinstone Graveyard(s) to summon big, Stealthed minions and/or Necrolord Draka to get a big weapon. So far, the biggest I faced was a 19/3 weapon + 20/20 minion on… Turn 6. Yes, that was an absolute high-roll, but it does happen. That’s why I believe that this package might see play somewhere.
There are some versions that don’t run Auctioneer and instead focus on generating even more Coins with Forsaken Lieutenant. Maybe that approach will be more viable, who knows. Either way, play it at your own risk – but I simply had to put it on this list.