Yesterday was exciting. Not only the mid-expansion mini-set was announced, we also had a short “reveal season” – Blizzard showcased all of the new cards over the course of a few hours. It was long enough so we could have some discussion about the cards, but short enough that we still have some time to take a closer look at them before Darkmoon Races launches. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do in this article.
Since I don’t have enough time to look at every single card and review them (and the same goes for theorycrafting – a bit pointless when everything releases tomorrow), I’ve decided to name the five Darkmoon Races cards I’m most excited for… plus a few honorable mentions.
I think that those cards are the ones with the most potential, some of which look like nerf candidates already (of course I’m not completely serious – nerfing cards before they’re even released is stupid, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they got hit down the line). One thing is sure – the power level of mini-set looks to be quite high, which means that it has a serious chance to make a significant impact on the meta. And that’s exactly what I hoped for – a mini-set that you have to pay for, but it doesn’t do anything for the game wouldn’t make sense, would it?
But let’s start with honorable mentions – the cards that I think have potential, but might not exactly be at the top.
Okay, hear me out, I know that Arbor Up isn’t one of the hottest Darkmoon Races cards, but I think that it has potential. We just need the right deck for it. It’s the first card that combines more board presence and a buff into one. The biggest downside of board-wide buffs is that, well, you need to have a board first to take advantage of them. Without board – they’re useless. Some of them have alternative mode (like summoning a 3/2 in case of Power of the Wild), but they can do EITHER buff or summon, not both.
In case of Arbor Up, you’re always getting 2x 4/3 at the very least. Yes, 2x 4/3 for 5 mana isn’t amazing, but that’s the worst outcome. Even with 1-2 more minions on the board, you’re already getting extra +2/+1 buffs, making your minions much, much stronger. It might not see play right now, but if Token Druid makes a comeback, I could absolutely see it.
One of the top rated cards from Darkmoon Races, I don’t think that it’s AS broken, but it’s certainly powerful. Drawing 3 cards for 3 mana is obviously amazing. Taking 3 damage… well, not so much, but it’s a rather small price. Or sometimes it’s not a price, but an upside. If you drop Darkglare on T2 and then follow up with this, it essentially only costs you 2 mana. It also discounts your Flesh Giant and has a few more synergies. I would say that it would instantly slot into Zoo, but the “issue” is that they already have an amazing draw in a form of Hand of Gul'dan. Maybe it will be worth it to ditch the Discard package and play this instead? Even if it is, Backfire probably won’t be a massive upgrade. Slower Warlock decks also don’t seem to have many issues with drawing cards.
Here’s the thing – the card would be broken in other classes, but Warlock is simply so efficient at drawing already. So I feel like despite it being quite strong, it won’t break the game so to speak.
Conjure Mana Biscuit
The thing about Conjure Mana Biscuit is not that it’s overpowered by itself, but that it might activate some really interesting combos. Because let’s be honest – paying 2 mana to earn 2 mana back is… completely useless. However, the fact that you can bank up of your 2 mana to use it later during a more crucial turn might make things quite interesting.
One of the biggest issues of combo decks are mana constraints. Emperor Thaurissan times are long gone, so you can’t do let’s say a 13 mana combo without going through some really difficult preparation. But things become much simpler with Conjure Mana Biscuit. your entire preparation might be playing a 2 mana card – or two of them. Yep, it’s actually quite easier than dropping Thaurissan. Of course, you’re still limited to a maximum of 14 mana with two copies, but that’s plenty.
What combos I mean, you might ask – well, I honestly don’t have any specific examples yet, but I’m sure that better deck builders will come up with them. What I’m talking about are ones including cards like Archmage Antonidas, Mozaki, Master Duelist or other Spell Damage + Burn combos (like the old-school Freeze Mage). When it comes to its combo potential, it’s one of the cards that might break the game, or it might be completely useless – it mostly depends on how good the combo decks will be and what other tools Mage gets over the course of next year.
What’s worth noting is that if you have a single Sorcerer's Apprentice on the board, it becomes Innervate – with two it becomes a pre-nerf Innervate. That’s neat even outside of combo decks. For example, if you play Tempo / Cyclone Mage and get it from Magic Trick, you can do some pretty cool plays (with a single Apprentice, Magic Trick -> Conjure Biscuit -> Biscuit is 3 spells for the sake of Cyclone which give you +1 mana in total). The card will be worth discovering pretty often.
To be honest, this one is quite simple. It’s a 2 mana 2/3 (so basically the best stats you can ask for) with a really nice upside. I think that it will be more powerful in Demon Hunter, but it might also find some use in Hunter.
For Demon Hunter, since your Hero Power costs only 1 mana naturally, it will make it cost 0. And that’s already really neat. It’s essentially a 2 mana 2/3 with “Battlecry: Give your Hero +1 Attack”, which is similar to Shadowhoof Slayer (a card that’s not completely useless), but with better stat distribution and an ongoing effect. If it sticks to the board – you will have another free Hero Power next turn. And free Hero Powers = synergies. For example, it might bring Satyr Overseer back – remember how amazing it was when Twin Slice used to cost 0? Or if you drop it in the mid game, you can drop Glaivebound Adept right on Turn 5. Of course, you could still do those things with a weapon equipped, but having another way to do so gives you more consistency, and that’s what matters. But honestly, even without extra synergies, 2 mana 2/3 that deals 1-2 extra damage (because that’s most likely how long it will live) is not a bad thing.
Then in Hunter, it’s not a bad T3 play if you have nothing else to do. Especially, it might be a good follow-up to Phase Stalker assuming it didn’t die – T3 was pretty awkward with Stalker on the board, because you often just Hero Powered and passed – with this you get an extra 2/3 on the board. But just dropping it on curve and enjoying cheaper Hero Powers doesn’t seem bad. I don’t think it will be as good as in Demon Hunter (because in DH you’re guaranteed to get something out of it even when dropping it on curve), but it has some potential.
I think that Felfire Deadeye might slot into both Aggro Demon Hunter & Face Hunter. It doesn’t look broken, but it’s just a straight up solid minion.
Imprisoned Celestial is another card that I put on this list that I’m sure many of you will disagree with. But I honestly do think that it has tons of potential, and in the right deck it might be really powerful.
As it turned out, “Imprisoned” minions aren’t actually so bad. Taking some tempo hit in the early game to get a big boost in the mid game has proven to be a decent play time and time again. In fact, most of the Imprisoned minions have seen at least some play, and I believe that Celestial might follow this pattern.
The best thing about Spellburst on a Dormant minion is the fact that it’s much easier to trigger. You don’t have to worry about the minion dying before you have enough mana to play a spell. You just play it earlier and then set up the spell for the turn it wakes up – preferably a cheap spell so you can play some minions alongside. And well, giving Divine Shield to your ENTIRE BOARD while also having a 4/5 body of its own is quite powerful for any proactive Paladin deck. Of course, the best case scenario is when you already have some minions on the board, then play some more when it wakes up and give your entire board Divine Shield, making them resistant to damage-based AoEs.
My biggest issue right now is that it’s pretty hard to fit into currently existing Paladin builds. Both Pure & Libram lists are quite tight, plus they might not be proactive enough – sometimes they start quite slowly and only take off in the mid game. And for the best results, you’d want a deck that can already put some early/mid game pressure so dropping it doesn’t put it behind and it has a higher chance of having board presence when it wakes up. For example, some sort of Dude/ Silver Hand Recruit Paladin. But I mean, even looking at those two decks, just dropping it on T3 and then having no board when it wakes up… If you follow it up with Aldor Truthseeker + Libram of Wisdom, you’ve got yourself a 5/7 with Taunt + Divine Shield and a 4/5 with Divine Shield on T5. That board is a nightmare to deal with for most of the decks. It also has really nice synergy with another new card – Rally!
Maybe Paladin won’t have a deck this can fit to after all, but even then I think that it has a lot of potential.
I know that Secret Rogue hasn’t been the strongest Rogue build in a while – Combo / Whirlkick builds have taken over and are still the strongest ones. But it doesn’t mean that Secret Rogue is bad – on the contrary, it’s still a viable deck with lots of interesting synergies. It’s also a deck that will more likely carry over into the next Standard year – all the Secrets and synergies are from this Standard year, while Whirlkick Master rotates out.
And this card is a really good Secret Rogue support. It obviously reminds me of Mad Scientist – or to be more precise Inconspicuous Rider, which was just recently released. The obvious upside over Rider are stats. Rider’s biggest problem is a 2/2 body, which just isn’t good enough, especially since it doesn’t trade well with 3 health minions (and those are quite popular). Then, the downside is that you actually need a Secret in your hand already, so it won’t always be active on curve. Now, the upside again is that if you don’t have any more Secrets in your deck, but you have one in your hand, it will still be useful… but that’s a more niche situation. You also have some more control over what will be played. For example, if you see that the only Secret that’s in your hand is kind of useless in a given situation, you can just keep Sparkjoy Cheat and wait until a better opportunity. In case of Rider, you only know the outcome after you’ve played it, making it a bit iffy at times. Then, playing a Secret from your deck (so costing you no card) vs drawing a card is basically the same…
Yeah, all in all, I think that the scales are tipped towards Sparkjoy – I know that Rider hasn’t seen much play in Rogue, but I feel like all in all this is a better version of the card. And with Secret synergies being in place for another year + probably some more releasing, it can be a really good deck some time after rotation.
1 mana Fiery War Axe, anyone? Of course, if that was actually the case, it would be the #1 card from the set, not an honorable mention and it would most likely bring Pirate Warrior back single-handedly. However, the requirement of having Armor should probably disqualify any aggressive deck. After all, what’s the point of gaining extra tempo on T1 if you have to spend your T2 doing nothing? And if you play against a faster deck that deals damage to you, you might have to Hero Power again on T3 if you want to use it… no, it just won’t work.
But where I see this card being quite nice is a Control Warrior deck. It’s a deck that usually skips T1 and T2 Hero Power is a common play already. Then, Shield Block or EVIL Quartermaster are common T3 plays, which means that you could also use your second hit of the weapon. Against faster decks, it could provide a nice early game board control tool – keeping their early game board in check could save you a lot of health because those 1-drops and 2-drops are going to pack a lot of damage by the time you get to e.g. your Brawl turn. And against slower decks, well, it would be a 1 mana Fiery War Axe most of the time, since you aren’t really struggling with keeping your Armor up. That said, in slower matchups you don’t exactly NEED an early game weapon, so it might not be as big of a deal as it sounds.
Overall, I think that it’s a good card in the right deck – a SLOW deck, because I really don’t think that it will bring back the faster Warrior builds – the condition is just against what they want to do most of the time.
And now, onto the actual Top 5.
#5 – Rally!
Rally is a card that can be really broken in the right deck. Do we have a right deck for it? Hard to say, but hear me out. Reviving a 1-drop, 2-drop and a 3-drop for 4 mana is crazy good. After all, you have to pay a total of 6 mana AND three cards to play all three separately. Being able to get them for 4 mana and a single card is nuts. Of course, the biggest issue is that it’s useless by itself. First you need to play those smaller minions and they need to die. That’s where the “right deck” comes into action. You need a deck that plays enough 1, 2 and 3 mana cards so you can get a good Rally consistently. I mean, you can honestly skip on a 1-drop, but 2-drop and 3-drop are must-have to make it work.
Luckily, both classes have some really nice candidates to bring back to life. Starting with Paladin, Aldor Attendant (or whatever random 1-drops you get from First Day of School) at 1 mana, Murgur Murgurgle or Shotbot at 2 mana, then Goody Two-Shields or Salhet's Pride at 3. As for the Priest, Frazzled Freshman or Reliquary of Souls at 1 mana, EVIL Conscripter or Sethekk Veilweaver at 2 mana and Dragonmaw Overseer or Nazmani Bloodweaver at 3 mana. And that’s before we even get into Neutrals – e.g. Injured Tol'vir and Injured Blademaster (yes, they would revive as 2/6 and 4/7).
Right now, I think that the card has more potential in Priest, actually. The most fun use would be playing it in a sort of Tempo Priest, especially with Injured minions I’ve listed above. But more realistically, it can be used to revive Veilweaver + Bloodweaver combo so you can take off again in the mid/late game. Or maybe Wild Pyromancer + Bloodweaver so you can do some board clearing while also making your hand cheaper. But Paladin also has some interesting combos. That’s why I’m pretty sure that the card will see some play before it rotates out, because it’s A LOT packed into a single 4 mana card.
#4 – Hysteria
I honestly love this card, both from the flavor perspective and the power perspective. It’s an obvious reference to Mass Hysteria, which used to be one of the Priest’s better removal tools at the time – but it only affects a single minion. However, don’t make a mistake of looking at it as a single target removal. It’s anything but that. In fact, if you play it when your opponent has just a single big minion on the board, it will do nothing.
The card will actually shine in situations similar to when Mass Hysteria was good – when your opponent has a few minions, preferably one of them is bigger. Let’s say that you face Zoo Warlock, which just dropped Flesh Giant with a few smaller minions on the board. The chances are that you can clear his entire board for 3 mana now – you just target Flesh Giant and it will keep attacking everything until it dies. Well, or not – that’s probably the biggest downside of this card. If the minion’s health is too high compared to attack of other minions, it won’t die. Which makes it sort of a mix between single-target and AoE removal.
It will be worst (not counting single minions) against boards of similarly-sized minions, e.g. only small minions, or only mid-sized minions… but even then, you’re very likely to remove 2 minions for 3 mana – who wouldn’t want that?
Given that it’s only 3 mana (as opposed to Mass Hysteria’s 5 mana) and that in many cases it’s similar or even stronger, I think that it will be a mainstay removal in both classes.
#3 – Libram of Judgement
Oh my… I could honestly see them printing a card like that without naming it “Libram”. I mean, it wouldn’t be strong, but my point is that it wouldn’t strike me as a complete pack filler either. And adding Libram to its name means that… it gets discounted by Aldor Attendant and Aldor Truthseeker.
Like, when was the last time you remember Paladin playing Libram of Hope for 9 mana? It’s probably been a long, long time, right? Yeah, that’s the thing. Those cards are usually much cheaper – like the Libram of Hope in Question, it’s rarely played for more than 6-7 mana. And similarly, I think that Libram of Judgement will usually be priced at 4-5 mana, at which point it’s quite insane even for the 5/3 weapon alone.
Yeah, let’s start with that. A 5/2 weapon – Arcanite Reaper – is priced at 5 mana. This is incredibly easy to get down to 5 mana, at which point it’s already better than Arcanite Reaper. And not slightly better – having one more durability means 50% more damage in this case. 10 vs 15 total damage is a big difference. And 15 total damage is A LOT against slower decks that might not run weapon removal. Because come on – that’s 1/2 of their base health. If you get tit down to 4-5 mana, it’s playable even without corrupting it. In fact, against Control decks, you often don’t need to bother with it, since you don’t care about it healing you up anyway.
In order to get extra value – Lifesteal – you need to Corrupt it. This is actually not an easy task – even if you discount it to 5 mana, you only run a few cards that will be able to Corrupt it. But you do run them, and those cards can often stall the game too (e.g. aforementioned Libram of Hope or maybe High Exarch Yrel in case of Pure version). And if you manage to Corrupt it… yeah. 5/3 weapon with lifesteal is just straight-up nuts. Heck, some decks have used Uther of the Ebon Blade mainly for the weapon. Against Aggro, it usually means removing 3 minions while healing for a bunch. Or just dealing lots of face damage + healing while using your own minions / other cards to remove their board. It can completely turn the tides of the game – instead of playing defensively, you might just go straight to the offense and threaten lethal in 2-3 turns.
I think that both Libram & Pure Paladin will love this card. Maybe I’m really wrong about it, I don’t know, but it looks really busted.
#2 – Nitroboost Poison
Deadly Poison, a card that’s actually played in some Rogue builds every now and then, that also buffs a minion with +2 Attack… at the same mana cost? Or, alternatively, 2/3 of Tinker's Sharpsword Oil for 4 times less mana. Yep, that’s right, here we go.
One could immediately say that no, it’s not that good, because you first need to Corrupt it. But come on – let’s be serious. It costs 1 mana, so any 2+ mana card Corrupts it. And it’s not a card you want to play on T1 anyway – it’s a weapon + minion buff, so you first want to have – that’s right – weapon and minion in play. It’s more like T3-T4 play at the earliest, and by that time it should absolutely be Corrupted (or super easy to Corrupt if it isn’t yet).
Aggressive Rogue decks are already playable, and this one makes a huge impact, especially in the weapon-oriented builds. If you have a 2 durability weapon equipped and a minion that’s ready to attack, this should deal at least 6 damage for 1 mana. And often more – remember that you can buff a higher durability weapon (e.g. Self-Sharpening Sword) and your minion might be able to attack more than once. It also has nice synergy with cards like Cutting Class, Dread Corsair or Steeldancer. Even without making any alterations to the deck, you can straight up replace Deadly Poison with it in Weapon Aggro Rogue and it will work. I think it’s good enough to be played in Stealth version too – some builds actually run Cold Blood, and this is so much better.
Oh, and not to mention that it also works in Warrior. While I do think that it’s clearly better in Rogue, if you play something like Pirate Warrior, you LOVE this card, you definitely want to play it. Is it enough to bring it back to the meta? I don’t think so, but we should be on a lookout next year, because a few more tools might make some sort of Aggro Warrior more than playable. In fact, I think that this card will be a staple in any aggressive Rogue & Warrior deck from now on until it rotates out.
#1 – Armor Vendor
I find those early game options that restore health to your opponent really interesting. Because you heal up your enemy, they can’t really go into Aggro decks – because they do the exact opposite of what you want to do.
We already had cards like Zombie Chow and Mistress of Mixtures, now we’re getting Armor Vendor. And honestly, for a Control deck, it might be the best of all three. With Zombie Chow, you played it mostly as a 2/3 for 1, it wasn’t “defensive” per se, it just created good board presence to answer whatever threats your opponent might drop (and you didn’t care about healing them up). Then, Mistress of Mixtures was a mainstay in many slower decks. And I think that Armor Vendor is very comparable, possibly even better.
2/2 stats vs 1/3 stats are honestly similar – which one is stronger really depends on the current meta and decks you face. Getting healing on Battlecry is better than Deathrattle, because it’s instant – with Mistress you often ended up getting it too late and dying before it would die. And finally – Armor is generally better than healing, because it works even if you have full health. Mistress was often “wasted” on T1 if your opponent killed it immediately. I mean, it was still a 2/2, so not the end of the world, but you didn’t get healing. In case of Armor Vendor – you’re getting it every single time. Of course, that also means that your opponent is getting it every single time, but again, it’s not something you really care about against Aggro.
Heck, remember Eternium Rover? A 1-drop that was auto-include into any slower Warrior deck for a while? Outside of it being a Mech, this is just better, since it has the same stats and guarantees 4 Armor, as opposed to Rover which usually gave you 2 Armor (but sometimes even 0). Yes, again, it gives Armor to your opponent… but again, you want to put Armor Vendor into decks that really don’t care about it.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the extra synergy with Warrior. E.g. this + Shield Slam can be a real T2 play against opponent’s 2-drops that you normally wouldn’t be able to answer. It would also have synergy with the new Spiked Wheel weapon. I’m like 99% sure it will slot into Warrior, but I’m convinced that some Priest or Warlock builds will also want that. Maybe other Control decks too if they pop up. It’s a great, great card.