Rastakhan’s Rumble Card Review #2 – Time Out, Ticket Scalper, Heavy Metal, Belligerent Gnome, Spirit of the Dead and Bwonsamdi, the Dead!

If you’re anything like me, then reveal season is your favorite time of the year (alongside the first days of a new expansion). With nothing figured out, new cards coming every day, wild theories and early deck builds (which most likely won’t work) popping up everywhere, and that surprise when you look at some card and think to yourself – “what were they thinking when they’ve designed it?”

Sadly, we’ll have to wait some more time until the reveal season starts in full force, but we’ve already got some cards and interesting mechanics to talk about. I’ll take a closer look at them in this article, reviewing them and rating from 1 to 10. The scale itself should be quite obvious, but just to quickly explain how do I see it: A card rated 5 is average – it might be playable in some decks, but it’s nothing special. Cards below 5 might see some play in off-meta decks, or as obscure techs, but the closer we get to 1, the lower chance it is that they will see play. When I rate card 1 or 2, I don’t believe that it will see any Constructed, non-meme play at all. On the other hand, going above 5 means that I see this card as something with a lot of potential. While I can’t guarantee that it will work out in the end, I believe that the cards with 6-8 are likely to see at least some Constructed play, while cards rated 9 or 10 are, in my mind, nearly sure hits. 1 and 10 are reserved to the worst or best cards I can imagine, meaning that they won’t be used often.

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Remember that with only a handful of cards seen, it’s incredibly hard to review them accurately, since we have no clue what synergies will be printed or which themes will be pushed. I advise you to pay more attention to the description than the rating itself – I will try to explore some of the potential synergies and reasons why a given card might or might not work. I also encourage you to share your own predictions and reviews in the comment section. Even if you aren’t sure, don’t worry, no one is! There is nothing wrong about being wrong, I have never seen anyone who nailed most of the card ratings before the release. But, without further ado, let’s proceed with the reviews!

Time Out!

The first thing that comes to mind after seeing this card is obviously Ice Block. Both cost 3 mana, both make your Hero immune and both basically buy you an extra turn. However, in terms of application, I would say that this is closer to Frost Nova. Instead of playing it proactively, you just drop it whenever you see that your opponent has a lot of damage on the board, or when you think he can burn you down. It’s better than Frost Nova in a way that it can prevent your opponent from dropping that Fireball on your face, but on the other hand it doesn’t protect your minions, so you can’t let’s say combo it with Doomsayer.

When compared to Ice Block, it has some clear upsides and downsides. The main upside is the fact that you’re immune from the get-go. If you stare at 20 damage on the board, you just won’t take that damage, period. In case of Ice Block, you would still take that damage and then become immune at or around 1 health. This is relevant in case you clear the board – if you clear board after this, you’re still safe. After Ice Block – nearly anything can kill you. It also can’t be countered by something like Eye for an Eye, and you can even take a free weapon swing after casting it (free as in you won’t take damage from it).

On the other hand, the fact that you can’t set it up makes it much more difficult to use. Ice Block is something you play when you have 3 free mana and then don’t worry about it. With this, you HAVE to play it on the turn before you want to be immune, so you have 3 less mana to work with that turn. It’s also way, way weaker vs OTK combos. Let’s say that you face a Malygos Druid, who has just enough damage to kill you. With Ice Block up, he would need to throw all of his burn and then Ice Block would pop. Now Mage could play Alexstrasza, a second Ice Block etc. and Druid no longer had his combo available. But in this case, you can simply fire it at a wrong moment. If you play it before Druid has assembled the combo, you basically did nothing (and you can’t truly know whether he has the combo ready or not). Or if you think that he still doesn’t have it and you don’t play it, but it turns out that he has and you’re dead. And even if you fire it at the right moment, it doesn’t force Druid to still play his combo out. He just waits one turn, then the second turn, then he fires it up. Yes, you live for 2 extra turns, but then if you still didn’t win the game, Druid just does his thing.

Still, this is a good card. Giving your Hero immunity on demand is great. Now, the only problem is to find the deck that is going to use it, and that’s not easy. Control Paladin hasn’t been truly competitively viable for many expansions now, and unless it gets A LOT of new tools this time around, I don’t think that it will change. Or rather, he gets a solid win condition. Because right now, Control Paladin can indeed win vs Aggro, but he has no long term win condition against all of the insane late game value cards like Death Knight Heroes (Hunter, Mage, Warlock) or combo decks. The only deck that this card would fit into right now is OTK Paladin with Uther of the Ebon Blade, but let’s be honest, it’s not the best deck on the ladder and this card wouldn’t change that (the combo is just too clunky). Right now, it looks like a very good card that might not find its home in any deck.

Card rating: 8/10, but it might not see play, because slow Paladin decks aren’t really viable

Ticket Scalper

It’s the first Overkill minion we’ve got, and it’s a classic example of a high risk / high reward card. Because a 4 mana 5/3 that draws you 2 cards is absolutely amazing, and that’s after you trigger the Overkill once. Trigger it twice and it will be absolutely nuts, one of the best cards in the entire game. The good news is that the minion does not have to survive in order for the Overkill to trigger. So if you attack a 4/4 minion and both die, you still get two cards. However, the trick here is that even triggering it once won’t be easy. 3 health minion on Turn 4 is very easy to clear. And here’s the catch – Overkill can only trigger on your own turn, which means that if your opponent runs his 3/2 minion into it, you won’t draw anything.

So in order to make it work, you need to play it, wait a turn and hope that it lives, then trade it into something while overkilling it. That’s really difficult to do, and I suspect that in practice it won’t work very consistently. Nearly every deck has a way to clear a 3 health minion on Turn 4 – aggressive builds have weapons and early minions, while slower builds have spells. It will die to most of the things that isn’t meant to kill 4-drops – e.g. Lesser Amethyst Spellstone will kill it without any upgrades, and it will also die to Flanking Strike – both of which are usually used against 2-drops or 3-drops.

Another difficulty is that your opponent will have to actually play a minion you can overkill into it most of the time. Because if he already has a 3/3, 4/4 or something like that on the board, he will just trade it into your 5/3 and you get nothing extra. So you need to drop your Ticket Scapler, and THEN your opponent has to play a minion that you can overkill. Sure, sometimes it will be the only play they can make anyway, but most of the time they will either drop something you can’t Overkill that easily (like a 3/6) or just remove your minion first before playing their own stuff.

The Pirate tag is a nice bonus, but is it really relevant? It doesn’t seem like a great fit into Pirate decks, which are meant to be aggressive. In a Pirate build, you prefer going face and not trading, at least most of the time.

It has some synergy with buffs (but if you aren’t buffing it on the same turn, it will probably die, and if you are, you’re not using your buffs efficiently) and with cards that give minions Rush (e.g. Rocket Boots or Charge), but it’s still a 2 cards combo that might not work that consistently.

Overall, it seems like a card that is great in a “perfect case scenario”, but this kind of scenario won’t happen consistently enough for it to see play. There are just too many ways to counter the card draw. The only upside is that you might sometimes force your opponent into making suboptimal plays. Like when it’s turn 4 and he wants to drop Saronite Chain Gang, he might be forced to play something else instead (or even not play anything at all).

Card rating: 3/10

Heavy Metal!

Remember Geosculptor Yip? That guy is an 8 mana 4/8 that plays this 6 mana spell. At the end of every single turn, as long as it stays on the board. So not only you pay only 2 extra mana for a 4/8 body (take a guess how good it is), but also for a potentially repeated effect (if he stays on the board for a second turn, casting it second time would pump the value up to 12 mana). And how much play he sees right now? Not much. He’s played in ~4% of the Warrior decks, most of which have less than 50% win rate. If you think about that, this card doesn’t look very good.

If it was Odd-Costed, it would make much more sense. After all, Odd Warrior is known for having lots and lots of Armor, so it would be easy to consistently summon a random 10-drop with it. Regular Warrior decks also have ways to gain a lot of Armor. Drywhisker ArmorerWeapons Project, Shield Block, even the Bring It On!, which comes with a downside, but if you could summon a 10-drop on Turn 6, it might still be worth it. This card might actually fit into heavy Armor-gain kind of Warrior that Yip also fits into. Yes, it’s weaker than Yip, but Yip is a really good card in theory, it’s just that classic Control Warrior just sucked for the last X expansions.

But you see, I think that even in a classic Control Warrior with Yip, there might be no place for Heavy Metal. One of the Yip’s advantage is that you’re getting roughly 5.5 mana worth of stats as a baseline, so even if you don’t have 10+ Armor, it can still work out. And if you have, you end up with TWO minions on the board, so it’s not as vulnerable to single target removals. Then – how consistently would you be able to use it on Turn 6? Keep in mind that regular Warrior can’t stack Armor as well as the Odd Warrior. Some chip damage from the opponent and you might not have 10+ Armor that you want. And playing it at let’s say 5-7 Armor is pretty bad, not only you don’t get any extra value, but you rely on RNG (and there are some really bad 5-7 mana cards, like 1/1’s). It might also be nearly dead against Aggro, you would need to wait until Turn 8 to combo it with Drywhisker to be able to play it in the first place, because they’re getting rid of your Armor nearly every single turn. And you really want to play it on the curve. Because a small tempo gain in the late game isn’t going to do you much good. If you aren’t planning to play it on Turn 6 most of the time, then why wouldn’t you just play some consistent big threats like The Lich King instead? If you’re a Control deck, you aren’t going to do much with the extra few points of mana in the late game anyway. Having 2 leftover mana (Lich King) vs 4 leftover mana (Heavy Metal) is rarely going to make a meaningful difference.

All in all, I could see this card seeing play, but only if an Armor-heavy version of regular Control Warrior would become good enough. And given how weak it is currently, I don’t think that it will happen.

Card rating: 2/10

Belligerent Gnome

Poor, poor Silverback Patriarch, he can’t catch a break. But if I had to compare this card to something, it reminds me of Wyrmrest Agent rather than Silverback Patriarch. Both cost 2 mana and are 1/4’s that conditionally transform into 2/4’s with Taunt. Unlike Wymrest Agent, however, even if this card’s condition isn’t met, it still has Taunt. Let’s be honest – an unconditional 2/4 Taunt for 2 mana would be great and it would see play in many different decks. But a 1/4 Taunt for 2 mana… well, I wouldn’t say the same thing about it. It’s pretty weak. We have a 2 mana 1/5 that doesn’t see any play despite being a Mech (Upgradeable Framebot), and I don’t think that adding Taunt while removing 1 health would fix that. Druid even has a 1/5 Taunt, which can also be a 1/2 Scarab with Poisonous (Druid of the Swarm) and while the card is okay, it’s not good enough to see play in slower Druid builds. So now, whether this card will see play or not depends on how often this condition will come up.

The main issue with this card is that it’s not really a 2-drop. Maybe if you’re going second and your opponent has a 1-drop into a 2-drop opening (or something similar, which puts them at 2 minions on T2), or when you go first and your opponent coins two 1-drops, but those things don’t happen every game. I’d wager that most of the time, this card would be a 1/4 on Turn 2, and that’s not great – this card would be most impactful on Turn 2.

Another “issue”, but that’s maybe not really an “issue”, is that this is not exactly an anti-Aggro card. To be perfectly honest, I think that faster decks might play it more than Control. I mean, even Tar Creeper was quickly adopted by Aggro, and it’s like the opposite of Aggro card, since it has only 1 Attack on your turn. But protecting your board is always good. For me, this card should be a great fit into faster decks, especially Even decks that don’t play Prince Keleseth anyway, such as Even Paladin or Even Shaman. They are struggling for good 2-drops, since it’s an incredibly important mana slot (as they need a good 2-drop on T2 and T3). Talking about Keleseth, any deck running Keleseth also probably won’t drop it to play this guy. I honestly can’t wait until Keleseth finally rotates out, so decks could actually play a variety of 2-drops instead of being stuck with Keleseth, because it’s just the best one.

Right now, I don’t think that this card will see a lot of play in Control. You wouldn’t want to play it over Tar Creeper (which is not only unconditional, but it also kills any 3 health minions that decide to hit it), and you don’t want to put too many early game Taunts. But Tar Creeper rotates out in the next expansion after Rastakhan’s, which might give this guy an opening. But I think that it will see play in more Midrange-ish decks, like Even Paladin or Shaman I’ve mentioned above. But it still ultimately depends on the meta – the more board flood decks there are (Odd Paladin, Zoo Warlock, Even Shaman etc.) the better this card becomes. 2/4 body doesn’t scale too well into the mid/late game, so realistically you want to be able to play it in the early game as often as possible.

Overall, it’s pretty solid now, but I think that it has even more potential after the rotation. Plus it heavily depends on the meta, since its effect is better the more board flood decks are being played (like MCT, but to a lesser extent).

Card rating: 7/10 until Tar Creeper is in Standard (because you wouldn’t want to play it over Tar Creeper in decks that can play 3-drops), but can get better after it rotates out. 

Spirit of the Dead

I really like this card, especially flavor-wise. The “Shadow Priest” theme they’re pushing this expansion is very cool. The “obvious” synergy they’re pushing is the one with Bwonsamdi, the Dead, but that’s definitely not the only way you could use this card in.

First and foremost – it’s a 1 mana 0/3 with Stealth. That alone can make it usable in… Combo Priest. Since minions in Stealth are generally hard to kill, and Combo Priest is often about sticking a minion on the board, this can be used to do it. Power Word: Shield + 2x Divine SpiritInner Fire creates a 20/20. Of course, it’s not the best combo target, you’d rather do it on an 8 health Twilight Drake for example, but it can be a nice backup plan if you can’t stick a minion and you’re holding your combo pieces. You can already sort of have a backup plan like that with Stormwind Knight, but the problem is that you need to do it all on the same turn – to get to the same 20 damage, you need 9 mana (2x Divine Spirit + Inner Fire), while Spirit of the Dead can be dropped on T5 and you can combo on T6, that’s a significant difference.

Another use is, probably the one that would fit the Bwonsamdi strategy most, is a kind of Midrange Priest build. You want to have a solid board, play this, do some trading, shuffle a bunch of high tempo minions into your deck, and either draw them or play Bwonsamdi to get all of them at the same time. The problem with this kind of strategy, though, is that a) Midrange Priest is not really a thing and b) that once you run out of steam, it doesn’t matter whether you topdeck a 1 mana copy of a minion or a 5 mana copy, they do the same, since you can still play it + Hero Power and do nothing else. But it would make Bwonsamdi a huge refill, which might be what this kind of deck needs.

Another option is a Deathrattle Priest with Reckless Experimenter, a card that was pretty hyped, but turned out to see play only in Mecha'thun build. This card has really nice combo with Reckless Experimenter, since you’re following him with a bunch of Deathrattle cards that will die, and then you get 1 mana copies of them back into your deck. And if your opponent doesn’t AoE, you can get 1 mana copy of Experimenter too (or maybe something like Carnivorous Cube etc.) which is definitely a fine discounted minion to get.

And of course, it can fit into something like the Resurrect Priest build Asmodai has popularized. The deck runs a lot of big minions, the kind of which you would want to shuffle into your deck as 1 mana cost versions. Imagine if your topdecks would be full of 1 mana The Lich Kings, Obsidian Statues and – of course – Prophet Velens. Now, the problem here is that this totem doesn’t let you actually get there – it just improves your late game. The deck runs Shadow Essence and getting the totem would be pretty bad, also getting one from Zerek's Cloning Gallery is a 50/50 situation. It’s amazing if your opponent has to clear the minions individually, but it’s bad if he just AoE’s, as it does nothing.

It feels like this card has potential, but it might be hard to use. The main problem I see with this card is that Priest decks aren’t generally minion heavy, nor do they do a lot of trading where your own minions are dying. Most of the time, the class has between 0 and 2 minions on the board, and if Priests do any trades, most of the times they try to value trade and not just run their minions to die. This card would be best in slower matchups, but a slow deck often doesn’t play any minions, so you can’t even run your own minions in to kill them. It has no immediate value, it’s not really useful in faster matchups (because the game will most likely be over before you draw your 1 mana copies of big minions), it’s hard to set up on bigger minions etc. So as you can see, despite it being a well-rounded card that might fit into many different decks, it might actually be pretty clunky to use. So that’s why I’m cautiously optimistic about it – not saying that it won’t see play, but I don’t see it as a meta-breaker yet. It needs more synergy, and more ways to get consistent value out of it, in order to be a great card.

Card rating: 7/10

Bwonsamdi, the Dead

If I have seen this card in vacuum, I wouldn’t like it at all. However, after seeing it together with Spirit of the Dead, I enjoy the flavor, as well as the card’s potential. So, here’s the thing – if you play a deck that runs Spirit of the Dead, you most likely also want to run Bwonsamdi (the only exception is Combo Priest, which would play the card for a 0/3 Stealth body, not for the effect). Those two just belong together.

In a deck without Spirit of the Dead? Hmm, very hard to say. Let’s start analyzing it by looking at the stats. 7 mana 7/7 is War Golem, which is obviously something you would never put into your deck, but it if gets a nice effect, the stats are good. It’s not a huge tempo loss, since you actually develop a meaningful body. That’s good. But a regular Priest deck won’t use this effect very well, since it does not run 1-drops. Northshire Cleric is the only common Priest 1-drop, and given that you mulligan for it, by the time you play Bwonsamdi, you will probably have only one or maybe even none left in your deck. That’s not a great use.

Do you want to put more 1-drops into Priest? Maybe, if you’re playing a sort of Tempo / Aggro Priest. But I just don’t see it. Even in a deck like that, you still don’t want to put THAT many 1-drops. Just think about Quest Hunter and why the deck is bad. Playing a lot of 1-drops is not a good idea – they are impactful on Turn 1, but get much worse in the mid game and are nearly useless in the late game. If we’re talking about regular 1-drops without late game scalling, the only thing that Bwonsamdi would do in such a deck would be increasing the quality of further draws. But that’s not very important in a deck that wants to finish the game just around the time it drops this Legendary. So no.

The only application outside of the Spirit of the Dead synergy I see right now is in APM Priest. Your combo pieces – Stonetusk Boar and Test Subject – are 1 mana minions. But then again, I think that Witchwood Piper is just better – while it draws only one, playing him on T4 is much easier. On T7 most of the time you will be looking at Psychic Scream, playing a 7 mana 7/7 is waaay too slow when you’re staring at lethal or nearly lethal on the board (which is basically nearly every game).

P.S. I’m not even discussing Surrender to Madness synergy, because Surrender to Madness is one of the worst cards in Hearthstone ever.

Card rating: 5/10… basically, it solely depends on Spirit of the Dead now – a deck that runs Spirit of the Dead to shuffle a bunch of 1 mana copies of minions MIGHT (and probably will) include Bwonsamdi as its card draw, but doesn’t have to. It needs more synergies to be seen as something more than a card complementary to Spirit of the Dead.

Stonekeep

A Hearthstone player and writer from Poland, Stonekeep has been in a love-hate relationship with Hearthstone since Closed Beta. Over four years of playing and three years of writing about the game, he has achieved infinite Arena and multiple top 100 Legend climbs.

Check out Stonekeep on Twitter!

2 Comments

  1. Jexulus
    November 16, 2018 at 8:31 am

    I agree in that I think Belligerent Gnome will shine in a meta without Keleseth, because what deck besides Zoolock these days consistently has 2 minions out on turn 2? However, even with rotation shuffling out its competition in Tar Creeper and Keleseth, this card will probably not consistently trigger when you go first unless a neutral 1-drop that summons another minion like Alleycat gets printed. I really want to like him, but I’m both worried and intrigued that he’s strongest when you’re going second in a meta that actually runs 2-drops.

    Reply
    • ActualWaterfowl
      November 17, 2018 at 11:34 am

      What are people’s thoughts on rocket boots + overkill minions?

      Reply

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