The next Hearthstone Standard rotation is approaching! When the first expansion of 2023 arrives in the game in roughly a month, the expansions from 2021 will rotate out of Standard format and only be available in the Wild format. 2021 was a big power year for Hearthstone. Forged in the Barrens, United in Stormwind, and Fractured in Alterac Valley brought powerful Questlines and Hero cards that have continued to have a strong presence all the way to the present day.
The expansion announcement is coming next week, and I also expect the changes to the Core set to be announced soon. While there are still some things we do not know, we have now seen the effects of the mini-set and the latest balance patch on the meta. Therefore, we can start to evaluate which of the current meta decks will have the cards to accomplish their plans after the rotation.
Let’s take a look at some of the top decks, what they are losing in the rotation, how they may be able to survive it, and which ones may be worth crafting right now!
Death Knight – It’s All Brand New, or Is It?
Death Knight should have the easiest time surviving the rotation. The class was just added to the game, and almost all of their cards are guaranteed to stay in Standard for another year. I say almost all because some of the Death Knight cards were added to the Core set and these cards can be retired from Standard already in spring. These cards are also really strong! Body Bagger, Skeletal Sidekick, Battlefield Necromancer, Chillfallen Baron, Frost Strike, Grave Strength, Thassarian, Gnome Muncher, Overseer Frigidara, Patchwerk, and Lord Marrowgar could all be removed from the Standard format if Blizzard wants to fine-tune Death Knight’s performance. I would be surprised about such a move, as then the cards would only have a few short months in Standard, but it is possible.
Many Death Knight decks will take a small hit as it is almost certain that Brann Bronzebeard will rotate out of the Core set and the Standard format. The developers have talked about the near-certainty of Brann leaving several times over the past couple of months.
If you are considering crafting a safe deck, Frost Aggro Death Knight remains an excellent option, as the deck requires no Legendary cards that are not available for free.
If Blizzard wants to weaken the archetype for the new year, they can easily remove Overseer Frigidara, but the low investment in the deck will make it worthwhile no matter what happens.
As for the other Death Knight decks, Blood Death Knight uses more Legendary cards, and while the deck is unlikely to lose anything else than Brann, it is not clear how competitive the deck will be in the new meta. It has definitely come and gone multiple times during March of the Lich King, so even in its current form, it is not a particularly safe bet.
Unholy Death Knight is in a precarious position as well. The deck is currently a weaker version of Frost Death Knight. If Frost loses something and Unholy does not, Unholy could become very strong. On the other hand, Unholy Death Knight’s triple-rune cards are all in the Core set, so if Blizzard decides to remove them and replace them with new powerful tools in the expansion, Unholy could change a lot. I think this is unlikely, as then the balance of Death Knight runes will be hard to find in the later expansions of the year. It would keep all runes equally represented with top synergy cards in the short term though.
Demon Hunter Looks for a New Direction
The current Fel Demon Hunter looks lost without Jace and Kurtrus. The deck will still have Lady S'theno, but it is hard to see where the deck could find sufficient support for her.
The Scythe version is in a slightly better position to handle the rotation. Sure, it will lose the same two cards, but there are some strong synergies around Souleater's Scythe, and the Relic package will still be available.
Nonetheless, I would currently avoid spending dust on Demon Hunter because the future of the class is unclear, and expensive key Legendary cards are rotating out of Standard.
Ramp Druid Returned Only to Leave Again
Ramp Druid has rediscovered itself thanks to Rake. Rake enabled Lost in the Park to help Druid survive long enough to ramp up with Wildheart Guff and blow any opposition to smithereens with Brann Bronzebeard, Anub'Rekhan, and Astalor Bloodsworn.
Well. Lost in the Park is leaving. Wildheart Guff is leaving. Brann Bronzebeard is almost guaranteed to be leaving. Blizzard has strongly hinted at Druid gaining a new way to get above 10 mana crystals in the rotation, either through Wildheart Guff staying in the Core set or through the introduction of a new card. Even so, Ramp Druid will need extensive rebuilding and does not look rotation-proof at all.
Do You Even Remember Hunter without the Buff Cards?
Welp. Quest Hunter without Defend the Dwarven District? Shockspitter Hunter without Brann Bronzebeard? Beast Hunter without Beaststalker Tavish and Wing Commander Ichman? Worst of all, no more Doggie Biscuit and Ramming Mount?
It is truly an end of an era for Hunter. It was thanks to Doggie Biscuit that Hunter started to focus more on fighting for the board and keeping their minions alive. That era is now about to end. Hunter still has a good number of strong synergy cards and the Wildseeds package, but the class will need to reinvent itself for the new meta. I cannot recommend crafting the current Hunter decks if you are looking for a safe deck that would survive the rotation.
No More Big Spell Mage
Big Spell Mage is going away. Pretty much the entire deck is built from cards from 2021, most notably Balinda Stonehearth, Magister Dawngrasp, Mordresh Fire Eye, Rune of the Archmage, and Drakefire Amulet. Well, that’s pretty much all that makes the deck a Big Spell Mage deck. Maybe we’ll meet again, but it won’t be this spring.
Aggro Mage, on the other hand, is a different story.
Sure, the deck loses a number of cards. Flurry (Rank 1), Frostweave Dungeoneer, Shivering Sorceress, and Amplified Snowflurry are meaningful losses and will need to be replaced with new early-game minions.
However, many of the things that give the deck its identity remain intact. Frozen Touch and the Arcane Bolt generators are still here. The Nightcloak Sanctum package that generates Volatile Skeletons will also remain in Standard. There are still many building blocks that can be used from this deck to build another aggressive deck or even a slightly slower variant, depending on the new cards Mage will get access to. Aggro Mage is one of the better decks to craft when considering the cards that are leaving and their role in the deck.
The Purating Paladin
With Pure Paladin being the main Paladin archetype, you’d think that it is extremely vulnerable to a rotation. Limiting your card pool to class cards only is such a handicap already, and then having three expansions wiped out in the blink of an eye should hurt. Should. But it might not hurt quite that much.
Sure, Paladin will lose some important cards. Stonehearth Vindicator, Knight of Anointment, and Alliance Bannerman are strong cards that can be hard to replace. There’s also Cariel Roame and Lightforged Cariel, although they did not play as big of a role recently. Lightforged Cariel is just making her way back to the meta, but if you’re short on dust, it is not a train you want to hop on.
To balance out the losses, Paladin has had very strong sets this year. Lightray, The Countess, The Purator, Blood Matriarch Liadrin, Blood Crusader, and Order in the Court give the class a strong foundation to build upon.
Just pick a list that skips the rotating Legendary cards, and you’re good to go with Paladin.
- 1Knight of Anointment2
- 1Righteous Protector2
- 1Sanguine Soldier2
- 1Sinful Sous Chef2
- 2Battle Vicar2
- 2Blood Matriarch Liadrin1
- 2Class Action Lawyer2
- 2For Quel’Thalas!2
- 2Kotori Lightblade1
- 2Order in the Court2
- 2Seafloor Savior2
- 3Alliance Bannerman2
- 3Seal of Blood2
- 3Stonehearth Vindicator2
- 6Blood Crusader1
- 7The Countess1
I Did Not Even Know Priest Had This Many Good Cards
Even the top meta Priest deck, Undead Priest, is struggling to figure out its future. It loses Shadowcloth Needle and Voidtouched Attendant. Najak Hexxen just found mainstream adoption and it is leaving as well. Worse still, Darkbishop Benedictus is leaving, and with it the good Priest Hero Power. What use is a healing Hero Power to an aggressive Priest deck?
The Undead package as such remains. Maybe, anyway, as Shadowed Spirit is the most important minion in the deck and it is from the Core set, it could also leave. Even though Undead Priest uses a lot of brand-new cards, it will be hit hard.
With two key Legendary cards on their way out, it is hard to recommend crafting Undead Priest, even though the deck is great right now. We’d need the Core set announcement to see if that helps with the Shadow aspects of the deck in any way.
Rogue Is Always Strong
Rogue cards don’t wait for a rotation to practically leave the game. They do it through nerfs after they have broken it. Can you believe that Garrote, Efficient Octo-bot, and Wildpaw Gnoll are only now officially leaving Standard?
There are also a couple of Rogue cards that have somehow remained important throughout their time in Standard. Shadowcrafter Scabbs was nerfed, but it survived anyway. Edwin, Defias Kingpin was even buffed for a brief time. That turned out to be a bad move and it was swiftly nerfed. Finally, there is the heart and soul of Thief Rogue, Contraband Stash. With the Stash (and possibly Tess) leaving, Thief Rogue seems to be headed for retirement.
The fate of Miracle Rogue, on the other hand, depends more on the upcoming Core set than on the rotation. If it gets to keep Shadowstep and Preparation, it is ready to keep rocking. Necrolord Draka and Sinstone Graveyard are brand new. The Potion Belt concoction package is shiny and mint. The deck is ready for another round of success. Mailbox Dancer is a small loss, but nothing insurmountable.
Shaman Does Not Even Have Any Meta Decks
How can you lose something, when you have nothing in the first place? Gnoll nerf has completely killed the class, because every viable deck relied on evolving it. To add insult to injury, Shaman is losing a large number of its Murlocs and Bru'kan of the Elements. You know, just to make sure it stays dead.
Warlock May Need a Change
Curse Imp Warlock and Imp Warlock have been steady performers for half a year. Both will need some changes for the new year, though.
Imp Warlock may look like a one-expansion deck, but it actually reaches a critical mass of Imps with help from earlier expansions. In particular, Wicked Shipment and Shady Bartender are leaving Standard in the rotation, which weakens the consistency of the deck. Imp Swarm (Rank 1) is also leaving, although it has generally been the weakest Imp card and could easily be replaced if it was the only loss.
Abyssal Curses and the big Imp synergy cards will remain in Standard for another year, so it is likely that decks can still be built around them. An Imp list should be easier to put together than a Curse list without ways to multiply the curses. Either way, their future form remains uncertain.
Warrior Hit Again While Lying on the Ground
Warrior has not been seen on the ladder much lately. When it is, Enrage Warrior is the superior archetype that should actually be fairly decent in this meta. Control Warrior has been dead for a while.
Enrage Warrior is losing a bunch of cards. Warsong Envoy is the biggest loss, followed by Rokara. Irondeep Trogg, Whirling Combatant, and Rokara, the Valorous are minor, but still hurt a deck that is not at the top even now. Enrage Warrior also uses several Core set cards, so it will anxiously wait to see the new Core set. Beaming Sidekick, Injured Tol'vir, Cruel Taskmaster, and Acolyte of Pain all play a role in the deck, and we do not yet know whether they will be available for the next Standard year.
Control Warrior loses what little tools it had. Frozen Buckler, Shield Shatter, Onyxian Drake, and Captain Galvangar did the best they could to carry the archetype and they were not enough. Control Warrior would need a lot from the rotation to stand any chance. The developers have hinted that Warrior will get some sweet things in the new Core set, so that is what Warrior players are waiting for. A single expansion cannot fix everything that is broken in the class when combined with all the losses it will take in the rotation, but a renewed Core set could.
Standard rotation is the most exciting time of the year for players interested in the mode. It can also be a difficult time if you are low on dust and about to lose your main decks. This year, Death Knight looks like the most likely survivor. However, Blizzard added many of the new Death Knight cards to the Core set, so the class is not as immune to changes as it might first appear.
Regardless, Frost Death Knight is the deck I would craft if I could choose only one and I wanted it to survive the rotation. Unholy Death Knight and Blood Death Knight also stand a good chance of surviving more or less intact, but they are less powerful.
In addition to Death Knight, I have the most faith in Pure Paladin, Miracle Rogue, and Aggro Mage, in that order.
It is not a great time to craft decks this close to a Standard rotation. Then again, you need a deck to play the game. It makes no sense to stop playing for a month either, and the rewards you would lose from that would easily end up costing more than crafting some rotating cards. The rotation will have a huge impact on the Standard meta, but there are always some survivors who will carry on to the next Standard year.