Standard rotation is a big deal. While every expansion introduces interesting cards, new mechanics, builds and so on, it’s the Standard rotation that actually takes away the strategies and builds on top of adding new ones. It’s the reason why new cards can be impactful without power creeping them, and it’s always the most interesting period in Hearthstone meta. Usually, players can’t just pick one of the top tier decks from previous expansion and expect it to work – with a lot of the cards gone, everyone has to experiment.
On the other hand, Standard rotation is pretty sad, especially for the fans of a specific deck that will no longer be playable. The decks you’ve used to facing on the ladder or the ones you’ve enjoyed playing yourself might no longer be viable. And this final month (or so) is often the last time you can play them in the current form. While you can still enjoy some of them in the Wild, that format has a completely different meta with different strategies – not every viable Standard strategy will be playable in Wild, or at least not without changing it significantly.
In this article, I’ll list a bunch of decks that will either be completely unplayable (because they lose some key cards, such as a vital combo piece) or will be weakened heavily and possibly played in a completely different form. I will not list decks that are just losing a few cards, but have a solid chance of still doing fine.
I’ve decided to split this article into two parts. Since Baku the Mooneater and Genn Greymane were Hall of Famed and also won’t be playable during Year of the Dragon, we’ve got a lot more archetypes rotating out than we usually do. In the first part, I will focus on regular (as in without Odd or Even restrictions) decks, while the second part will feature only decks built around the two Witchwood Legendaries.
Without further ado, let’s start with the list!
Keep in mind that those are only example deck lists, usually used by pro players to hit high Legend – there might be multiple versions of some of those decks!
For quite a long time, Deathrattle Hunter was THE best Hunter archetype to play. It was pretty weird to see from a perspective of someone who plays the game for so long, since Hunter was always about more aggressive strategies – Face and Midrange. And then, Kathrena Winterwisp was released, and players have built a Recruit Hunter deck around it quite quickly. It played a very slow curve, mostly relying on the Turn 6-8 swings (recruiting big minions over and over again) to win the games. Later, the deck evolved into the current Deathrattle Hunter, which didn’t change THAT much ever since The Witchwood. Spider Bomb and Zilliax were added after Boomsday Project, while Rastakhan’s Rumble gave the build Oondasta and Amani War Bear (but in the end, neither of those became staples that were seen in every list).
Going through the list of cards the deck is losing will be painful for Deathrattle Hunter fans. There are more cards that it loses than the ones that will actually stay in Standard. Let’s start with Prince Keleseth – it was never a key card in the deck, but it helped, especially since there weren’t a lot of great 2-drop options to fill its spot. Early/mid game removals are also gone – both Candleshot and Flanking Strike were a grace against high tempo decks that pushed the board in early game. But I guess that the deck could still work without those, it would eventually find some replacements. The biggest hit, however, is a nearly entire Deathrattle package. Both of the Deathrattle activators – Play Dead and Terrorscale Stalker – are gone. Deathrattle cards you want to trigger with them are also gone – flooding the board with 5/5’s from Devilsaur Egg was one of the main selling points of this deck. Both Carnivorous Cube and Kathrena Winterwisp rotating out means that the deck is losing most of its late game power too. Charged Devilsaur from the Big Beast package could be easily replaced, but the package will no longer be there without Kathrena. And finally – Deathstalker Rexxar. Hunter’s DK Hero was one of the reasons why the class was so strong throughout the last few expansions. Devoting only a single card slot to give your deck a late game infinite value win condition that would let you fight against greedy Control lists like equals was a no-brainer.
Deathrattles have been one of the Hunter’s secondary themes for a while already, so I’m quite sure that we’ll get other Deathrattle cards and possibly other Deathrattle synergies eventually. But when looking at the deck in current form, it’s completely dead and will no longer be playable after rotation.
- 1Secret Plan1
- 2Explosive Trap2
- 2Freezing Trap1
- 2Grievous Bite1
- 2Wandering Monster2
- 3Animal Companion2
- 3Deadly Shot2
- 3Kill Command2
- 3Unleash the Hounds1
- 4Flanking Strike2
- 4Wing Blast1
- 5Baited Arrow2
- 6Deathstalker Rexxar1
- 6Lesser Emerald Spellstone2
- 6To My Side!2
When it comes to community overreacting to card reveals, the two best examples are most likely Purify and To My Side!. Both of the reveals led to an avalanche of terrible comments from community, saying that those are some of the worst cards ever printed, that Blizzard can’t balance their own game, that they deliberately print terrible cards etc. They got a meme status even before getting released. Another thing those cards have in common is that both eventually ended in a competitively viable archetypes. While Purify’s Silence Priest wasn’t a long-term meta deck that survived throughout multiple expansions, Spell Hunter turned out to be one of the strongest Hunter archetypes ever. At first the deck didn’t even play To my Side, but that was only because the Barnes + Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound combo was way too powerful (and high-rolly) to pass up. After the 2018 Standard rotation, however, To my Side! became a Spell Hunter staple.
Spell Hunter was floating around Tier 2-3 throughout most of The Witchwood and Boomsday Project – it was not a bad deck, but it wasn’t anything special either. Everything has changed early in Rastkahan’s Rumble, when it has seen a massive resurgence, mainly thanks to a new Hero card – Zul'jin. Just imagine that you’ve spend entire mid and late game getting rid of their board, Secrets etc. and on Turn 10 they play a single card and get everything back again. It was by far the most popular and one of the strongest archetypes in the early expansion meta. It basically kept its status after the first nerf patch, completely dodged by Hunter. Only the second nerf patch, hitting Hunter's Mark as well as Lesser Emerald Spellstone, has brought it down. But not completely – it’s still an okay deck, it’s pretty much back to its Tier 2-3 zone from before Rastakhan’s. But it’s still playable, and it might be the final opportunity to play it in Standard.
The most obvious cards that rotate out are “Spell-only” synergies – To My Side! and Rhok'delar. Without those, you no longer have any incentive to run Spells only. If there’s a powerful minion you might have in your deck (let’s say Houndmaster Shaw), you can just add it. Losing one of the most powerful Secrets (Wandering Monster) as well as Secret payoff card – Lesser Emerald Spellstone – is another reason why the deck will no longer be viable. Then, losing early and mid game removals such as Candleshot, Grievous Bite and Flanking Strike will make it more susceptible to Aggro decks. And, of course, Deathstalker Rexxar is one of the biggest loses. It was probably even more important in Spell Hunter than in other Hunter decks, since Spell build wanted every single way to summon minions without actually putting them into your deck, so turning into Rexxar was like a dream. Overall, if we look at the list above, 13 out of 30 cards are rotating out, and some of them just can’t be replaced with something else.
Maybe the class will get some more Spell-only synergies, because I have to say that it was a really interesting and unique way to build a Hunter deck. But unless that happens right away, in the first expansion, I don’t think that the deck will be even remotely viable after rotation.
- 1Holy Smite2
- 1Power Word: Shield2
- 2Mind Blast2
- 2Radiant Elemental2
- 2Shadow Visions2
- 2Spirit Lash2
- 3Shadow Word: Death1
- 3Vivid Nightmare1
- 4Eternal Servitude2
- 4Mass Dispel1
- 5Mass Hysteria2
- 6Shadow Essence2
- 7Lesser Diamond Spellstone2
- 7Prophet Velen1
- 7Psychic Scream2
- 8Shadowreaper Anduin1
- 9Zerek’s Cloning Gallery1
For quite a long time, Priest class was all about Combos. No matter if the deck was built around Spell Damage (Prophet Velen, Malygos), Shadowreaper Anduin or Divine Spirit, nearly every Priest deck in the last 2 years had something to do with combo. And Resurrect Priest is like an ultimate combo deck. While there were two kinds of ways to build it (one included more late game minions to revive and another was 100% focused on the combo), the goal was the same – survive until the late game, play your big minions (or, even better, Zerek's Cloning Gallery) and keep reviving them. And if you managed to revive Velen, Malygos, or both, then you could throw some Mind Blasts and Holy Smites at your opponent. It seems like a simple game plan, but in reality the deck is quite challenging to pilot.
But, just like other decks on the list, it will be hit very hard by the rotation. It loses most of its consistency – Radiant Elemental will no longer be there to perform your combos more efficiently (neither will be Gilded Gargoyle to provide extra Coins to do the same thing) and Shadow Visions will no longer be there to get you the spells you need. The deck also loses a way to summon minions out of your deck (Shadow Essence), and both ways to revive them (Eternal Servitude + Lesser Diamond Spellstone), meaning that not only you will have to wait until the late game to play your minions, but then you won’t be able to revive them anymore. Shadowreaper Anduin‘s rotation doesn’t hurt this deck THAT much, but it’s still another late game win condition gone. And finally, Psychic Scream. It’s been a go-to Priest AoE removal in Year of the Raven. While Rastakhan’s Rumble introduced Mass Hysteria, it’s mostly meta dependent and works better as a supplement to another card and not the main AoE clear itself. Especially since the deck also loses Spirit Lash, which was a mix of healing and AoE (especially in the late game, when combined with either Velen or Malygos).
All in all, while Zerek's Cloning Gallery still has a lot of potential as a card, without ways to synergize with it, I don’t think that the deck will survive the rotation in the current form.
At this point, Control Priest is a grandpa among Priest archetypes. The archetype was played pretty much since Classic (even though it wasn’t as good back then, players like Zetalot always found a way to make it work), and then it’s been a solid part of the meta in one form or the other pretty much since League of Explorers. And yes, the “one form or the other” part is very important, since the deck has changed significantly over the years. It used to be a more Classic, grindy, value-oriented Control build, then it was more proactive when Drakonid Operative was still in Standard, and finally it took the current, combo-oriented shape early during Year of the Raven.
And here’s the thing – I’m quite sure that Control Priest will be played next year, but the reason I’m putting it here is probably that it will – once again – look completely different. Which is good for the most part, but if you like the current version, you should play it before it’s out.
As for what cards it loses, well, quite a lot once again. First of all – Dragons and Dragon synergies. It’s true that some of the synergies were added throughout Year of the Raven, which means that they stay there, losing both Twilight Acolyte AND Duskbreaker hurts a lot. Duskbreaker was the main reason why Control Priest was beating Aggro decks, and Twilight Acolyte helped A LOT in slower matchups, especially in combination with Cabal Shadow Priest (9 mana combo that let you steal anything from your opponent while putting a really solid board). Even though Cabal Shadow Priest doesn’t rotate out, it might not see a lot of play without Acolyte. While not a Dragon synergy card, Primordial Drake was one of the better Dragon options to play too, and it will be gone. Blizzard would need to print some really good Dragon synergies for Priest to bring the deck back in a similar form.
Then, the deck loses its main late game win condition – Shadowreaper Anduin. Unlike other combo decks which go for one big burst of damage, Control Priest was all about chip damage. After turning into DK Hero, it usually dealt 2-4 damage per turn to the opponent, slowly but surely bringing their life total down, until it could finally burst him down with Mind Blasts and Holy Fire. Shadow Visions rotating out also decreases the consistency, as well as maximum damage potential (discovering extra burn damage in slow matchups was often the only way to win). And, of course, without Psychic Scream, the deck won’t be able to stall so well in the late game. Between that and Duskbreaker, two of its premium AoE options are gone.
Priest in general doesn’t look great, especially since the AoE it got in Year of the Raven isn’t as impressive (not compared to the Lightbomb, Dragonfire Potion and Psychic Scream). If we’ll have to wait until third expansion for a new AoE, then the class might be having some serious problems.
And the latest addition to the Priest roster – Wall Priest. Since I’ve already analyzed most of the cards, I’ll keep it short. Wall Priest was a big like a combination of a more classic, Divine Spirit Combo Priest with Resurrect Priest, and the Resurrect part basically rotates out. Without Master Oakheart, Mosh'ogg Enforcer and Witchwood Grizzly will be much weaker. Notably, Grizzly will also be weaker without revives – the goal of this deck is not to play it from hand, but Recruit or resurrect it at full 12 health. And without the late game potential of Eternal Servitude and Lesser Diamond Spellstone, as well as the stall of Psychic Scream, it will probably be better to play a regular Combo Priest once again.
Which means that the deck didn’t have a long run in Standard, but you can play it for another 3-4 weeks or so if you still want to.
And now onto Mage. Funny thing about deck naming is that Big Spell Mage is basically a Control Mage, except that it runs Dragon's Fury and had to drop cheap spells because of that… but then again, there aren’t many cheap spells you would want to run anyway since Ice Block has rotated out to Hall of Fame. So let me get this straight – Control Mage will probably still be a thing, maybe not right after the rotation, but eventually. However, the card that MADE Big Spell Mage is rotating out, so the deck is gone (unless they print more synergies).
Of course, Dragon’s Fury is not the only card this deck is losing, and honestly, things aren’t looking that great for slow Mage decks because of that. The deck is losing basically all of its late game. Frost Lich Jaina has been its main win condition, and if you’ve ever played the deck and Jaina was at the bottom, you know how difficult it is to win without her. Other late game options, such as Dragoncaller Alanna (the other “Big Spell” card that has been cut from some lists recently), The Lich King or Sindragosa are all out too. The deck is also losing Arcane Artificer, which was the best way to survive without Ice Block, one of the better removals (single target with pseudo AoE – Meteor), solid 2-drop (Raven Familiar) and a bunch of other Neutral cards that see common play in the deck (e.g. Stonehill Defender).
To be fair, Mage still has one of the better Basic/Classic sets, so I’m pretty sure that with a few solid cards from the upcoming expansion, Mage will be fine.
Elemental Shaman is kind of a surprise, because I’ve seen the deck time and time again ever since Un’Goro, but it was always… unimpressive. I’ve considered it to be a more newbie-friendly deck, with a pretty straightforward gameplay, one that was good enough to play in lower ranks, but that’s it. However, I’ve been surprised recently about the deck’s performance. Over the last month or so, I’ve seen multiple top Legend climbs with Elemental Shaman. Obviously, not as many as with Midrange Hunter and such, but the number is still quite impressive.
However, if you want to play the deck in Standard, it’s basically your last chance, until Blizzard prints another Elemental expansion for Shaman. In the list I’ve posted above, 18 out of 30 cards will be gone. New Elemental cards & synergies from Year of the Raven will still be there, and we actually have quite a few of them. Earthen Might, Menacing Nimbus, Bog Slosher are the ones played in this deck, but Shaman got a few other strong Elementals recently – Electra Stormsurge, Thunderhead and Storm Chaser, plus Elementary Reaction spell. However, the problem is that even though Shaman will still have some cool Elementals, the tribe does nothing by itself. In order to make it good, you need to play Elemental cards, and most of the payoff cards will be gone. There’s no reason to play Elementals without Servant of Kalimos, Blazecaller or Kalimos, Primal Lord. The two 2 mana spells are not enough to make them work.
Obviously, Blizzard might push Elemental synergies for Shaman (since it seems to be THE Elemental class), but I doubt that they will print enough in a single expansion to compensate for an entire Elemental expansion (Un’Goro). So play it while you still can!
Once again, obviously, Zoo Warlock ain’t going anywhere. The deck has been with us since the Classic and it will probably be with us until the dawn of time. Warlock’s Hero Power just promotes this kind of strategy so much that Blizzard would have to go out of their way and not print any powerful low cost minions at all for this strategy to not be played. But this specific build that got popular late in The Witchwood called “Heal Zoo Warlock” is close to its final moments.
What makes this Zoo build stand out is, like the name suggests, healing. There are two main reasons why you run healing in Zoo Warlock (which is inherently an aggressive deck) – Lightwarden (the card can snowball hard) and Happy Ghoul (also a great snowball card, 0 mana 3/3 is massive tempo). Of course, there are other small advantages of running healing cards – it can help keep your minions alive, you can also heal your face against aggressive decks so you can race them more efficiently (in matchups like Aggro Odd Mage, every bit of health matters) or get a few more taps to gain a card advantage. But with Happy Ghoul out, as well as Fungal Enchanter, the build will no longer make sense.
And to be honest, Zoo in general go through some serious struggles. Prince Keleseth has been a part of the deck’s core ever since Knights of the Frozen Throne. Some players have tried out Keleseth-less builds, but ultimately Prince 2 turned out to be better. The deck is also losing lots of other staples, such as Kobold Librarian, Tar Creeper, Saronite Chain Gang, Despicable Dreadlord or Fungal Enchanter.
Another problem is that even though Doomguard was replaced by Leeroy Jenkins sometimes, it was still an amazing 5-drop and a card that was commonly seen in Zoo. But it might be a good opportunity to print some more aggressive Discard synergies again – they probably wouldn’t be as abusable without Doomguard. All in all, I’m 100% sure that Zoo is not dead and it will see play once again, but it might take some time and it might look quite different (but it has been going through many phases already, so it’s nothing strange).
Let’s start with stating the obvious – CUBE Warlock is nothing without Carnivorous Cube, and it’s out. It will no longer be possible to summon Doomguard, hit for 5, play Spiritsinger Umbra (which also rotates out, by the way), Cube, Dark Pact and hit for 20 more. Skull, which I was talking about earlier, is also gone. Not only that, but Possessed Lackey, the only other way to summon big Demons, is out too.
Then, the deck’s defensive capabilities will also be crippled, if losing Cube and Skull/Lackey wasn’t enough. Defile is out, and while Shriek might be an okay early/mid game removal, it’s clearly not as good as Defile. Lesser Amethyst Spellstone and Dark Pact out means that it will be harder to heal yourself up. Not to mention that half of your Demons – Voidlords – which by the way are the reason why you even stand a chance against Aggro, won’t be playable in Standard.
And to make everything even worse, the deck loses its massive late game win condition, which combined tempo, value and defense, Warlock’s DK Hero card – Bloodreaver Gul'dan. Those are some sad times for slow Warlock builds, as Bloodreaver Gul’dan was easily one of the Top 3 DK Heroes overall.
All in all, over half of the deck rotates out. Cube Warlock will no longer be playable in any form. And things aren’t looking too bright for any kind of slow Warlock build. Control will be in almost juas as bad shape as Cube and Even rotates out. We will need some seriously good cards to bring the slow Warlock back into the meta. So play it while you still can… or take a walk on the wild side.
Mecha'thun was one of the biggest surprised of Boomsday Project (at least for me). I really thought that it’s going to be a fun, but not competitively viable card. That it will be too difficult to pull off the combos and that Mecha’thun decks won’t work. But it turned out that they do work better than I’ve expected, with three of them being quite solid (Warlock, Druid and – to a lesser extent – Priest). While it was never a mainstream card and Mecha’thun decks were mostly off-meta, it was still a nice surprise. That said, the card’s time in Standard might be over, despite it not rotating out just yet. All three of the best Mecha’thun combos will no longer work. But let’s focus on Warlock first, which is – in my opinion – the best build out of them.
Warlock’s plan is simple – cycle through the deck until fatigue while dropping 2x Galvanizer on the way to discount Mecha’thun to 8, then when there are no more cards in deck, play Bloodbloom + Cataclysm to clear the board + discard hand, thus triggering a victory (assuming no Deathrattles on your side). There are a few reasons why Warlock is a great class for Mecha’thun. First of all, it can pull off combo quite easily without having to keep that many combo pieces in the hand. Then, it’s great at cycling, particularly thanks to Life Tap Hero Power. It also got a lot of great stall/removal tools (mainly during Year of the Mammoth), which buy more time to pull off the combo. And finally, because it doesn’t have to empty the hand after drawing everything, something which is a notorious problem for Druid and Priest (sometimes they need to take extra 2-3 turns into fatigue to get rid of the unnecessary cards, which can be deadly at times).
However, with both Bloodbloom and Cataclysm rotating out, the combo will no longer work. Even assuming that it did – losing all of the stall/life gain/removal tools from Year of the Mammoth would most likely result in the deck no longer being viable. Cards like Defile, Lesser Amethyst Spellstone or Corpsetaker (with Lifesteal) have been a very important part of the deck.
I would really recommend trying the deck out if you haven’t done it yet, but you have cards to do it. Depending on the cards we get next year, Mecha’thun might still come back in some form (e.g. Rogue can pull off the combo quite easily, but it lacks all of the necessary stall to survive that long), but nothing is certain.
While we’re talking about Mecha’thun, I wanted to cover another Mecha’thun deck – this time it’s Druid. I’ve already talked about the card previously, so I’ll keep it short. Druid’s combo is more simple and yet more difficult than Warlocks. Malfurion can clear Mecha’thun quite easily, with Innervate + Naturalize. That’s only 3 cards, without need to play any Galvanizers, but given the fact that you need to empty your hand completely, it can be tricky at times.
However, since Naturalize is getting Hall of Famed, it’s no longer possible to do it this way. Theoretically, Lesser Jasper Spellstone could also do the trick, but you would need double Innervate and double upgraded Spellstone, increasing the numebr of combo pieces (and dead cards) heavily, BUT Spellstone also rotates out, so that’s not an option.
Not to mention that even if Naturalize was still there, it would still be very difficult to get it done. Losing cheap removal in a form of Spellstone, as well as a lot of life gain / cycle from Earthen Scales, Barkskin, Branching Paths and Oaken Summons would hurt the deck A LOT. Branching Paths and Oaken Summons are great card in general, but the first two in particular are vital pieces for both Wild Pyromancer and Gadgetzan Auctioneer combos. With Pyro, you use them as the AoE board clear (which is the main way the deck wins against Aggro), and they are used as cheap spells to cycle with Auctioneer.
Which means that even if Druid would get another way to trigger Mecha’thun, it might still be difficult to build a deck around it, given that the class might no longer have the necessary stall, removal and cycle tools to do the job.
And last, but not least, Togwaggle Druid. It’s been one of the many Combo Druid decks created over the last 2 years (and there were at least 5-6 different ones, if not more). While King Togwaggle was tried out early after its release in Kobolds & Catacombs, the deck became more than just a meme in The Witchwood, when Azalina Soulthief was released. The thing is, it was easy for Druid to cycle until the end of his deck and then switch with opponent… but it was difficult to prevent opponent from simply switching back. Azalina solved that problem by giving Druid a copy of King’s Ransom, whcih can be used to switch back again after opponent does that.
But of course, since Togwaggle is from Kobolds & Catacombs, the main combo piece will be gone, meaning that the deck will no longer work. But I won’t leave it just there and discuss one more thing – Druid class. I’m worried that it might be in a terrible shape in the upcoming expansion. To be fair, even if their vital combo pieces didn’t rotate out, the Druid decks would still be in a bad shape. Between all of the nerfs, it’s already one of the weakest classes right now. And that’s with all of the crazy powerful tools from Year of the Mammoth, like Spreading Plague or Ultimate Infestation. Imagine how weak the class will be when all of those AND Naturalize all rotate out. To be completely fair, Team 5 will need to print a bunch of completely overpowered Druid cards to compensate if they want to keep the Druid viable, or point it in a completely different direction, like Token synergies. But ramp has always been the class’ identity, so I can’t imagine them dropping it completely.