It’s been over a month since Rise of Shadows’ release and the meta has already settled down. Since it doesn’t look like we’re getting a nerf patch yet (things might change, obviously, but there are no clear signs so far), things aren’t going to change drastically. Which means that I can already create a new edition of “Most Under/Overrated Cards”!
I will take a closer look at the pre-expansion predictions and compare them to how strong the cards turned out to be in reality. Rating cards pre-release is really difficult. You can never guess how the meta will look like, not to mention that some of the cards might look insane on the paper, but turn out to be mediocre in the game or vice versa. It’s tough, but it’s part of the reveal season fun. And part of the expansion fun is looking past at those ratings and seeing how wrong we were. Yes, we, because I’m guilty of underrating some of those cards too.
In the first part, I will be looking at the most underrated cards from Rise of Shadows (there will also be a second part about overrated cards – stay tuned!). An underrated card isn’t necessarily a card that was thought to be very weak, but turned out to be a meta-breaker (like the infamous Corridor Creeper). By “underrated” I simply mean a card that was rated significantly lower than its real power level – for example, a card that was rated to be #110 of the expansion, but turned out to be above average (e.g. #40) is still underrated, even if it doesn’t see play in any Tier 1 deck. Similarly, a card that was rated #30 out of 135, but is turned out to be the best card in the expansion was also underrated – even though it wasn’t rated as “garbage” at first, it is much better than players have expected.
Let me also explain where did I get those ratings from. First of all, those are community (so YOUR) ratings, not pro ratings – I feel like it’s the best way to show how an average player felt about the card (or, to be honest, above average player, since casual players most likely didn’t care enough to vote). The ratings I will be come directly from our site. I screenshotted all of the card ratings on the release day, which shows exactly how you felt about those cards before the expansion got out. When talking about card’s current popularity or win rate, I use HSReplay.net statistics (Last 7 days, Legend-10).
Big Bad Archmage – Rated #120 out of 135
Big Bad Archmage was rated as one of the worst cards in the entire set. While it didn’t turn out to be a meta-breaker, I think that it deserves a spot on this list. Big Shaman might not be a high tier meta deck, but it’s somewhat viable and Big Bad Archmage is a pretty important part of the deck.
The card is played in Big Shaman not only because of its name (but come on, it’s a nice coincidence), but because of a synergy with Muckmorpher. The best ways for Big Shaman to run away with the game is getting a good Muckmorpher or Eureka! on curve, and Archmage is an amazing Muckmorpher target. For 5 mana, you get a 4/4 minion that summons a random 6-drop. That’s already insane tempo-wise, but amazing thing is that if it doesn’t get answered, it can snowball the game by itself by summoning another one every turn.
Big Bad Archmage is played in ~2% of the decks with ~50% win rate. Which makes it a rather average card, far from the worst in this expansion.
EVIL Cable Rat – Rated #119 out of 135
The truth is that Lackey-generating cards were heavily underestimated in general before launch. They are usually pretty slow, sometimes even negative tempo (like EVIL Genius – you need to destroy your own minion), and Lackeys are only 1-drops – how impactful can they be? But as it turned out, Lackeys are amazing and are a part of multiple decks.
EVIL Cable Rat is the most basic Lackey generator. You play a 2 mana 1/1 that gets you a Lackey – it’s comparable to Novice Engineer, which draws you a card from your deck. And I kind of get why it was rated so low – why would you prefer a Lackey, a token, over an actual card in your deck? Not to mention that Novice Engineer is only played in combo decks that want to cycle as quickly as possible anyway. But what people didn’t take into account is how high tempo Lackeys are. If you play EVIL Cable Rat in a fast deck, it’s way, way better than Novice Engineer, since Lackeys are way better tempo-wise than an average card in your deck – and more tempo is exactly what you want. Their effects aren’t meaningless, and because they cost only 1 mana, it’s so easy to fit them between other plays. Plus, the 1/1 body is not meaningless – it doesn’t seem like much, but when ignored, it can be a solid threat. Especially in decks like Token Druid, which can then buff it.
It’s true that Cable Rat is still the worst Lackey generator, but given that other Lackey generators are amazing, being “worst of the amazing cards” is not a bad title. Right now, it’s the 12th most played card from Rise of Shadows (8.8% popularity), with 52% average deck win rate. In other words, one of the worst cards became one of the best cards.
The Forest’s Aid – Rated #102 out of 135
Another heavily underrated card is The Forest’s Aid. Druid was in a terrible spot going into Year of the Dragon. Not only it was repeatedly nerfed over the last few years, but now all of the broken cards from Year of the Mammoth were rotating out. And it’s true – any slow Druid deck that relied on ramp cards is in a bad spot right now. But there’s another Druid strategy that was heavily underexplored lately – Aggro Token Druid. While Token Druid was played quite commonly during Year of the Raven, it was mostly a slower, more combo-oriented version. The good, old Aggro Token Druid that put much more pressure on early board states and rushing opponent down was gone for a long time. But it find its way back into the meta, and The Forest’s Aid – despite costing 8 mana – is a staple in the deck.
I guess that the card was rated so badly mostly because of its mana cost. I mean, 8 mana is expensive. And in order to fully take advantage of its effect, you need to play it twice – that’s 16 mana in total! And let’s be honest – creating 5x 2/2 is strong, but not a broken effect. So why did it see so much play in the end? Mostly because it’s not played as your main win condition, but as a backup plan. If your initial plan of flooding the board and killing your opponent quickly fails, you always have a chance to get them in the late game. And all you need is a single copy of this card to cover your late game. By Turn 8, your opponent is probably out of AoE, or at least running low on them, because you already flooded the board a few times. So now you play The Forest’s Aid and IF he can’t clear it – you might just win the game on the spot. Keep in mind that with just a single Savage Roar, an unanswered Forest’s Aid turns into 22 damage. That’s usually more than enough to kill your opponent at that point. And if he answers it? Well, you just play it again. And if he answers it again? Since you’ve spent two turns playing a single card, you might have drawn some more resources again for one last push.
The Forest’s Aid is currently 22nd most popular card from Rise of Shadows (5.4% popularity) with a massive average deck win rate of 55%. Yeah, clearly one of the most underrated cards from Rise of Shadows.
Chef Nomi – Rated #93 out of 135
I’ll have to be honest – just like most of the voters, I also haven’t seen Nomi as much more than a meme card. I mean, it’s obvious that his effect is insanely powerful, but in order to get there, you need to run out of cards completely. And the only consistent way I’ve seen was Myra's Unstable Element. But to be honest, I didn’t think that it will be good enough. I mean, yes, if you play Myra’s, which draws Nomi, it’s amazing. But there would be lots of situations in which you draw Nomi first and then you’re stuck with a 7 mana 6/6 – a really bad card. At least until you draw and play Myra’s. I wasn’t entirely wrong – most of the highest rated lists don’t run Nomi, but there is a surprisingly high amount of lists that do. And those lists also get great results. So it’s not an universally amazing Tempo Rogue card, but a solid tech (in probably the best meta deck), which would already mean that it was underrated. But that’s not all.
The deck I have COMPLETELY not expected to work so well is Miracle (Nomi) Priest. Yes, it’s true that the deck was already played back in Rastakhan’s Rumble, but it was mostly an off-meta build + some of the great cards it played (Radiant Elemental, Shadow Visions etc.) have rotated out. But as it turns out, Nomi was enough to bring it back, because it adds a massive, and I mean MASSIVE win condition. You no longer have to rely on Grave Horrors to carry you. I mean yes, those are still good, and often your main win con against Aggro, but now you also have an amazing win condition against Control. It’s crazy how fast the deck can cycle – there were games in which I played on-curve Chef Nomi which was active. Of course, it’s not a great idea in some matchups (the ones with AoEs), but cycling through your entire deck by Turn 7 is surely impressive no matter how you look at it. But of course – one Nomi would be shut down by lots of AoEs. That’s why Miracle Priest also runs two copies of Seance. Now, on Turn 9, they can play Nomi + Seance. Then if it gets cleared another Nomi + Seance. And finally drop one last Nomi. Most of the decks don’t have a way to deal with it, to the point where Control Warriors in high Legend have started teching Spell Damage when the deck was popular to be able to clear Nomi with Warpath.
Overall, Chef Nomi is the 11th most popular card from the expansion (9.6% popularity) with an average win rate of 51%. So, again, heavily underrated.
Magic Carpet & EVIL Genius – Rated #83 and #79 out of 135
I’ve decided to put those two together, since they are both played in the same deck – Zoo Warlock. And to be honest, I can’t imagine Rise of Shadows Zoo without those two cards. While Zoo might not be the most popular deck on the ladder, it’s actually quite high in terms of win rates. The cards currently have between 2% and 3% popularity, but a massive 55%+ average deck win rate. While Zoo’s win rate falls down at higher ranks, it’s still one of the best decks to play in lower ranks.
Magic Carpet especially is the backbone of Zoo Warlock – and it will be a backbone of any deck that wants to play lots of 1-drops. If your deck is packed with them, it’s like a better version of Houndmaster Shaw that you can play 2 of. And it does a similar job. If not killed right away, it lets you deal damage with your existing board while still removing whatever your opponent might be playing at the same time. That’s what Zoo Warlock wants to do anyway, but Carpet makes it even easier.
As for the EVIL Genius, well, like I’ve mentioned already, Lackeys are just strong. Getting two of them on a 2 mana 2/2 is absolutely busted. Yes, you have to sacrifice something first, but the thing is, it’s often not a big deal. You run lots of 1/1’s – killing one of them is well worth the effect. Not to mention that by running Scarab Egg you give yourself an amazing target that you actually want to kill off. And the best thing is that Lackeys are 1-drops, so they also synergize well with Carpet. Win-win!
Waggle Pick & EVIL Miscreant – Rated #76 and #63 out of 135
And the award of most underrated cards from Rise of Shadows goes to… those two. It’s clear as day. While they were put somewhere in the middle of the stake before expansion, they are now #1 and #2 cards of the expansion in terms of popularity. They are played in 20% of the decks (Miscreant) and 17% of all the decks (Waggle Pick), despite being class cards. Tempo Rogue is the deck to beat in this meta, and those two are one of the biggest reasons why.
Miscreant is great mostly because Lackeys are great – I know that I’m repeating myself, but look, I never expected them to be THAT strong. When it comes to Miscreant, I figured that the card might be okay, but I honestly thought that the Combo part might be a dealbreaker. After all, 1/5 for 3 mana without a combo is basically unplayable. But as it turned out, it’s much easier to activate it than I imagined. With multiple 0 mana spells like Backstab, Preparation or Shadowstep, not to mention Coin when going second, it’s not that difficult to get it up on curve. Even if not, Miscreant is so good that dropping him on Turn 4-5 is also not a bad play, since you can use the Lackeys immediately to utilize the rest of your mana. Even the “worst” Lackey – Witchy Lackey – is pretty good with Miscreant, because you can turn it into a random 4-drop (and you don’t mind doing that because of its pretty awkward 1/5 stat-line).
As for the Waggle Pick – good weapons are always welcome in the class, and Waggle Pick has the perfect balance of mana cost, power and durability. That’s the thing about Rogue weapon. Make it too cheap – it probably won’t be impactful enough to run over Hero Power. Too expensive – will come out too late to be played in most of Rogue decks. Same with Durability – if you make it too high, you will make your Hero Power unusable for multiple turns, and you will expose yourself to weapon destruction for longer, so it’s also not great (of course, you’d take any extra durability, but it would always come at the expense of something else – and 2 is actually perfect). Current builds have also done everything to make the effect as good as possible. Bouncing a lot of minions back is not desirable (e.g. Hench-Clan Thug), that’s why most of the builds settled for minions with Combo, Battlecries or Charge – something that you can get advantage of again when you bounce it. For example, the infamous combo with Leeroy can deal 16 damage out of nowhere, a burst damage that Rogue always welcomes.
All in all, the cards were heavily, and I mean HEAVILY underrated. They turned Rogue into a beast this expansion, while the average pre-expansion rating would put them in “well, maybe they will see some niche play” territory.
Conjurer’s Calling – Rated #41 out of 135
While it’s obvious that we can’t beat last two cards on this list in terms of being underrated, I feel like Conjurer’s Calling also deserves to be here. It’s the fourth most popular card from Rise of Shadows expansion (sitting at almost 15%) and it spawned not one, but two amazing decks already – Conjurer Mage and Cyclone Mage (which is sort of an evolution of the first, but both are now separate entities that coexist). While some of the card’s potential was already realized before launch, especially the combo with Khadgar, it still took players a few days to find the right deck to fit it into. Right now it might seem obvious, but it took some time for Conjurer Mage to be optimized and become a popular meta deck.
The power of Conjurer’s Calling comes mostly from a great combo it has with Mountain Giant. Even though you often drop it for 3-5 mana, it normally costs 12, and the pool of 12 mana minions in Standard is rather small. There are two, to be precise – Giant and Grave Horror. So casting Conjurer’s Calling on Giant either adds another one, or turns it into two 7/8 Taunts (which is often even better). All of that for 3 mana. And if your opponent manages to deal with one of them but leaves the other one – guess what, since Conjurer’s Calling has Twinspell, you can use it again. The fact that it has absolutely insane synergy with Khadgar is another thing – instead of two, you summon four if Khadgar is on the board. Which means that using it even on a smaller minion (let’s say a 3-drop) might not be that bad – you can get a nice board flood out of nowhere. Or just win the game on the spot
I do understand why the card was underrated, though. When I have first seen Conjurer Mage deck, I thought that it was pretty clunky and relied on luck too much. But as it turned out, the deck is pretty consistent and performs its game plan in most of the games. While the insane Turn 5 Khadgar combos are quite rare, for the most part they simply aren’t necessary to win.
Archivist Elysiana – Rated #37 out of 135
And last, but not last, the bane of players who hate dragged out matches that sometimes even go all the way to the tie… Archivist Elysiana. And let’s be clear here – the card was rated quite okay before the release. #37 of the expansion is definitely not bad. However, if you compare it to the actual #3 popularity score (15.5%, just after Waggle Pick) and the fact that it’s a must-have Control card, you will have to come to a simple conclusion – it was still severely underrated.
I’ll be honest – I like long, Control games that get to fatigue. But even I have to say that I wish that Elysiana never existed. Because it drags out those already long games even further. And of course – just using her once is far from enough. Players run Youthful Brewmaster or Baleful Banker to play it once again when they run out of the 10 extra cards. It’s like playing Control mirrors with 50 cards decks – and then sometimes a few turns into fatigue too (assuming players drew some cards on the way, because if they didn’t, the game actually ends in a tie after 45 turns from each player – so 90 in total). She’s one of the biggest problem of tournament play right now, because Warrior mirrors in Specialist format are very common, and assuming they go all the way to Game 3, a single Bo3 can actually go for 1.5-2h. And that’s just one match – now if a few players bring CW, it becomes much more common.
But this is not a rant post – Elysiana is a card and we can’t do anything about it for now. But for a card which is one of the most impactful ones from the entire expansion, and one that wraps the tournament meta around itself, calling it #37 of the expansion was definitely underrating it.