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?”
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the new cards, 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.
Remember that it’s very hard to predict the meta that will happen after new expansion launches. 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!
Due to a personal event and a really intensive reveal season (I couldn’t write for roughly 4 out of 9 days of reveal season), I got behind on the card reviews. Since I’d rather focus on theorycrafting than reviewing cards right now, my final review is going to feature only a part of the cards. I’ll skip the less interesting or clearly bad ones, and focus on the ones that are cool or have competitive potential instead. If you want to know about my opinion about a specific card, you can still ask in the comment section and I’ll give you a tl;dr of what I think about it!
I see a lot of people mentioning Shudderwock Shaman when talking about this card, but I’m honestly not sure why. Right now you don’t want to play it over Grumble or Zola, and after the rotation the archetype is dead in water anyway, because it loses both Grumble and a way to duplicate Shudderwock in the first place (Saronite Chain Gang). Not to mention that Youthful Brewmaster performs basically the same role, because you don’t really care about +2/+2 on your Shudder that much.
But I do think that this card has potential, more as a value play, but also with a bit of tempo swing potential. You see, bouncing a minion back to your hand is really a negative tempo. But there are some minions which not only benefit from it, but also can take a solid advantage of the buff. Saronite Chain Gang I’ve already mentioned is one of them. You can bounce a single 2/3 Taunt, and then replay it as a 2x 4/5 Taunt for 4 mana next turn. Any kind of card with Charge, Rush, Divine Shield or Taunt can benefit from that buff. For example, later in the game, you can drop Zilliax, kill something, bounce it back and replay it as a 5/4 next turn.
It also works nicely on cheap minions with Battlecries, e.g. Witch's Apprentice – for 5 mana, you can play Witch’s Apprentice, bounce it and replay it again – you get 2 random Shaman spells, a 3/3 and a 2/3 Taunt. Pretty solid value play and not a very bad tempo play.
I think that the minion has some potential in Midrange Shaman archetype, not a Shudderwock deck, but something that can benefit from replaying Battlecry etc. minions, especially a deck running some Elemental synergies (since this card is an Elemental too).
Card rating: 7/10
Unlike N'Zoth, The Corruptor, Undatakah seems to be a bit too inconsistent and easy to counter to build an entire deck around it. However, I can’t imagine a world in which he won’t be a mainstay in Deathrattle-heavy Midrange or Control decks until the 2020 rotation, because his effect is absolutely powerful. If a Deathrattle deck already exists, or is close to being viable, Undatakah might push it in the right direction.
Of course, I could come up with dozens of overpowered combos with 3 specific Deathrattles, but it’s not even necessary. Just take a Deathrattle Hunter deck. Let’s say that by the time you’ve played Undatakah, two of your Devilsaur Eggs and a single Spider Bomb died. Now, this is an 8 mana 8/5 that Deathrattles into two 5/5’s and destroys a random opposing minion on death. There you go, it’s already quite insane and it’s the most basic scenario. And you know what’s the best thing about it? If you now Play Dead it, you get all three Deathrattles at once.
Deathrattle Rogue is also an almost viable deck, and this would be a huge play in that build. It runs both Devilsaur Eggs and Mechanical Whelps, and getting any of those Deathrattles is massive. Of course, the class also has ways to trigger the Deathrattles, which would create a massive board that your opponent has to remove. But wait! If he does remove it, Undatakah summons all of them again. So he first needs to single target remove it or Silence it and THEN AoE everything, which might not be an easy task at all.
And those are only the current decks that could use it efficiently. Any deck running a high density of Deathrattles in the next year and 4 months will probably at least test this card out, since there is pretty much no downside to it – you just replace a single big threat with it.
Card rating: 9/10
I always like seeing new Secrets, especially playable ones. The thing about Secrets is that they tend to be relatively weak if there is only one or two of them present in the meta. But the more possibilities you have, the more interesting things get. For example, playing against the current Secret Hunter deck actually makes you think what Secret he might have up each turn and playing around it – you don’t automatically assume that “oh, it has to be Wandering Monster, because he doesn’t play anything else”.
I really like this card, and I think that it has some potential. But one thing is sure – it doesn’t have a home right now. You don’t want to put it into Big Spell Mage, because it ruins your Dragon's Fury. You don’t want to put it in Tempo Mage, because you don’t play bigger minions. Elemental Mage is a possibility (you have some good targets to copy), but the problem is that you also run a lot of small tokens + you might not want to play spells because of Book of Specters.
The deck I would put it into is a more classic Control Mage, where you play a bunch of bigger minions as your win condition, and you can abuse this kind of effect. Because let’s be honest – who wouldn’t want to get a 3 mana copy of The Lich King, or just any other big Taunt against Aggro? You play it a turn before, then drop a Taunt – if it doesn’t get Silenced, then that’s game for the most part.
I’ll be closely looking at this card, as it has some potential, although it won’t likely see play until the rotation at least.
Card rating: 6/10
It looks like a lot of players are underwhelmed with this card, but I honestly think that’s how Hero cards should look in the future. Well, maybe not EXACTLY like that, but I won’t cry when the days of infinite or insane late game value cards like Deathstalker Rexxar, Frost Lich Jaina or Bloodreaver Gul'dan are gone. I had my fun with those cards, but in general, they aren’t healthy for the meta, as they basically force everyone to have an infinite win condition OR a combo win condition to win the game. You can no longer play Hearthstone with a classic Control deck, like the oldschool Control Warrior, Control Priest or Control Paladin, simply because even if you pack a lot of value into your deck, a Midrange Hunter with Rexxar can still win the fatigue game against you.
Zul’jin is a different kind of Hero card. In this case, most of its power resides in the Battlecry, while upgraded Hero Power is just an icing on the cake. The effect to repeat all of the spells is very powerful. Yes, it’s kind of similar to what Yogg-Saron, Hope's End was, but his effect is much more predictable. Which usually means lower potential for a high roll, but also a lower potential for a low roll, if you know what I mean. Basically, the effect is more consistent. The effect would fit best into a Spell Hunter deck, which runs cards like Animal Companion, To My Side!, Lesser Emerald Spellstone, a bunch of Secrets etc. The deck also plays removal, such as Deadly Shot and (less commonly) Crushing Walls. Those would all be predictable, positive effects – you would end up with some nice board presence, a few Secrets in play and maybe even some minions removed. This is absolutely powerful, and a great swing that might let you win the game. Of course, some of the effects are less predictable, but they honestly should not impact the overall swing of the card. For example, Kill Command or Flanking Strike would pick a random target – so it might hit an enemy, but might also hit you or your minions. In the grand scheme of things, you will still summon much more than you would remove, but it’s something to keep in mind.
As for the Hero Power – dealing 2 damage to anything vs only to your opponent’s face might not seem like a big difference, but it’s quite good. You can still use it in the same way you would, but now you can also use it to protect your board or win the value war, especially in the matchups in which damaging face is not very effective, since they heal up like crazy (such as Odd Warrior). Of course, if it’s possible, you’d still want to switch that Hero Power into DK Rexxar’s one when possible, if you’re going for a longer game at least.
All in all, Zul’jin is a powerful Hero card and it will 100% see play in Spell Hunter. On top of that, it MIGHT be played in some slower Secret Hunter builds – after all, replaying all of those Secrets and Spellstones can be a nice late game win condition. While DK Rexxar is a better card in general, remember that it will rotate out quite soon and then Zul’jin will be the only option left. And honestly, it’s not a bad option at all.
Card rating: 8/10
That is some cool card. It’s the first time we’ve got an anti-ramp card. Before you could only get rid of your own mana crystals, but never the ones of your opponent. This opens some interesting opportunities.
Let’s be clear here – this is not going to be a meta card. While yes, you COULD theoretically run it in Aggro as a regular card, to drop it in the late game and delay some AoE removals (Twisting Nether) or big minions (The Lich King), I don’t really think that Aggro wants to run a 6 mana 5/5 minion that is absolutely useless in faster matchups, and even not always useful vs Control.
But this is a tech card versus some decks. One of the decks it absolutely counters is any Mecha'thun build. You see, in order to make Mecha’thun active, you need to have no cards left in your deck and only the Mecha’thun combo in your hand. However, since those combos cost 10 mana (Priest’s, Warlock’s and Druid’s alike), playing this right before they drop it means that… yeah, they can’t play it. Now they have to wait until they get back to 10 mana, so you have enough time to just develop the board and kill them while they’re in fatigue and don’t draw any more removals etc. Yes, we have some other Mecha’thun counters, but I feel like this might be the best one.
But it’s not only Mecha’thun decks – it counters any combo deck that needs to be at 9-10 mana to perform the combo. Let’s say that you face Shudderwock Shaman that has set up the entire combo and you’re just waiting for him to drop the final piece – Shudderwock himself. Well, by playing this you can deny it for 3 extra turns, possibly giving you enough time to finish the game.
And obviously, it counters Druids too. They had Wild Growth and Nourish, putting them 3 mana crystals ahead? Well, just before their Turn 10, when they wanted to refill with Ultimate Infestation, you drop this card. Now they’re back to 5 mana, with a dead 10 mana card in their hand. That’s one way to win against Druids. Against mill variant with King Togwaggle and Azalina Soulthief, you can also drop it when they cycle through their entire deck and are ready to drop the combo on you. Well, bad luck, now they have to wait a few more turns to do it, giving you enough time to develop a bigger board when they can’t really do much.
As you can see, this is an interesting card with many applications, but I believe that it will mostly be a tech card, played when the need arises. If those kinds of decks will make a significant part of the meta, this card might be used to counter them. The effect is really powerful, but also very situational, which might mean that it might not see the play at all in the end. If the strategies it counters will be a small part of the meta, or won’t be present at all, there will be no reason to run it.
Card rating: 8/10, but very, VERY situational / meta-dependant
Spirit of the Rhino
This might be one of the best, if not THE best Spirit card, but it also fits into an archetype that hasn’t been very successful in the past, and it might actually not change that.
What I like about it is mana cost, making it very flexible. In the mid or late game, you can drop it on the board without really using a big chunk of your mana pool, and then play one or two Rush minions and keep them alive. But even a more basic scenario – you play this on T4 with your 3/3 Rush and run it into another 3/3. It’s basically as if you played a 1 mana 3/3, given that you “saved” your Rush minion at full health for just 1 mana. And then, you will often be able to use the same effect next turn, unless your opponent decides to AoE down your board (or play anti-0 attack minion tech cards).
The main problem I have with this card, and with Rush Warrior in general, is that the deck is already good vs minion-based decks. Rush minions let them pick the favorable trades, gain extra tempo etc. and dominate the board. However, the deck starts getting really weak vs any kind of Control and Combo builds. If your opponent plays no minions (and those deck can skip multiple turns without playing a minion), then your Rush keyword is useless and you’re playing a bunch of understatted minions that you still have to drop, because you need to put the pressure (if you don’t, they will just take you to the late game and win with their own strategy). Making your minions immune doesn’t really help that. I mean, sure, it can be relevant in the late game – they drop a big minion, you play this + 2x Rush minion and kill it, while yours survive. But it won’t actually be a big help when it comes to winning vs slower decks. It won’t help you put the early game pressure that much.
On the other hand, it should help in the Midrange matchups. Against Aggro, you won’t need it to make efficient trades most of the time anyway, and against Control you they won’t drop enough minions for this to be relevant. But against Midrange, they also play efficiently statted minions, meaning that your Rush won’t necessarily trade into them favorably, making this a solid option.
I’m quite sure that the card will be good in Rush Warrior, but Rush Warrior might still not be good enough.
Card rating: 8/10 in Rush Warrior
It’s a very interesting card. For 5 mana, you will often get a full board clear, which is not something a Priest can do with other tools, such as Holy Nova. Right now, the card’s usage might be limited, because most of the slower Priest builds still run a Dragon core with Duskbreaker, but the card is going to rotate out soon.
The great thing about this card is that it works well against both wide and tall boards. If your opponent has a bunch of small minions, them attacking each other most likely means that everything dies. But if your opponent has only two big minions, you can also use it in a way Supercollider would work, to force them to attack each other. Of course, you having minions kind of messes up with it, but let’s be honest – if you’re playing a Control Priest, the chances are that you have no board anyway.
Now, the problem is when your opponent has a mixed board, with some big and some small minions. Then, sadly, the card will heavily rely on RNG to clear the board. That’s the part I dislike – on many board states (e.g. Even Shaman with a bunch of Totems and a few minions, or Even Paladin with two midrange minions and two 1/1’s), the outcome will be either a full board clear or the card will do almost nothing depending on how lucky/unlucky you get. Yes, there will still be a skill in identifying those kind of board states and trying to not play it then, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice. That’s why I think that Brawl is a stronger card in general. It’s just more consistent – no matter what the board state is, you can always clearly see the worst outcome – the biggest minion on the opponent’s side survives – and try to prepare for it. You will always have a single minion surviving, but in this case, on a more complicated board states, you basically have no idea what is going to happen. But
I think that even if not right now, the card will see quite a lot of play after the rotation happens. Psychic Scream is absolutely amazing, but Turn 7 is often too late – Aggro and Midrange decks can kill you by that time if you don’t clear the board earlier. And let’s be honest, Holy Nova doesn’t really cut it when lots of minions have 3 health. This, while not exactly most consistent in some matchups, will probably be the best option anyway. But I think that this kind of effect is hard to theorycraft about, we’ll just need to wait and see how it works in practice.
Card rating: 7/10
Krag’wa, the Frog
Very strong card in any Shaman deck that heavily relies on spells. It doesn’t fit into a faster, more tempo-oriented strategy, but it offers immense value. While the 4/6 for 6 stats are not amazing, you will either draw one card you absolutely want to have in a given matchup (e.g. you can draw Healing Rain against burn decks), or a few cards in control matchups in the late game.
But where the card really shines is the Unstable Evolution synergy. It was already confirmed that you will get one copy for each time you’ve Echoed it. So, for example, if you’ve played 5x Unstable Evolution on T5 and then this on T6, you will get 5 copies of Unstable Evolution. That’s absolutely insane both in terms of value and in terms of tempo. You can now transform your minions for days, have multiple turns in which you don’t use your resources (don’t drop big minions) but still develop huge boards that need answers.
It also has a very nice synergy with Hagatha the Witch. In the late game, you can play a bunch of random spells you’ve got from Hagatha (try to fit as many good ones as you can), and then drop Krag’wa next turn to get all of them back. Massive value tool in the matchups in which you need value.
The card would fit most into the non-combo Shudderwock Shaman, but also into any Control / Combo Shaman deck. I will be trying out Malygos Shaman, for example, and I’ll definitely play it out there.
Card rating: 8/10
I feel like Treant variant of Token Druid was close to being viable in the last expansion, and it might get even closer or actually become a thing. You see, we had a few ways to summon Treants and some ways to benefit from them in the long run (like reducing the cost of Mulchmuncher), but there was no immediate pay-off. This is it.
Even though the transformed cards can’t attack right away, turning 2/2’s which die to nearly every single AoE and don’t trade favorably into many minions into 5/5’s is a huge, and I mean HUGE improvement of the board. 5/5’s dodge a lot of AoEs, trade really well into Spreading Plague, and most importantly, put A LOT of pressure. Having three 2/2’s is 6 damage per turn – sure, it might be a bit scary for the opponent if you buff them, but you won’t suddenly threaten lethal (one Savage Roar = 14 damage in total). However, three 5/5’s are way bigger – they threaten 15 damage by themselves, and up to 23 with just a single Savage Roar.
It’s a bit like Quartermaster did push Dude Paladin into a viable territory, this might do the same thing for Treants. On the one hand, the fact that 3/3’s could attack right away was quite important. On the other hand, +3/+3 buff is significantly better than +2/+2, and I’d argue that 4/4 stats are better than 2/5.
And the thing is that none of the Treant Druid cards will rotate out in 2019, so if we get more synergies, it might turn into a viable, high tier deck even if it won’t now. Overall, I like the card.
Card rating: 8/10
Spirit of the Lynx
If a card like that would stick to the board, it would be pretty powerful. However, the thing about those Spirit cards is that they need to get some value immediately, the turn they’re played, in order to be viable. This seems like a hard card to get value of immediately.
In order for your 3 mana minion to be worth it, I’d say that you need to get at least 3-4 buffs. Realistically, you can get that many activations with… Unleash the Hounds. Having 2/2’s instead of 1/1’s is quite good, I have to say. Not only it makes it easier to remove stuff, but if you’re going for an aggressive game plan, they can also deal a lot of damage. But what if you don’t have Unleash? You rarely play more than one, maybe two Beasts per turn. So even if you play this + a Beast on the first turn, and then two more Beasts on the second turn, that’s barely enough for it to be worth it. It would need to stick to the board for longer. Remember the older Druid card, Addled Grizzly? It was a bit similar – in theory, it sticking to the board gave you a massive advantage. But in practice, you could rarely play multiple minions per turn and it died quickly.
Another thing is that it’s another 3 mana card for Hunter. Hunter’s 3 mana slot is absolutely crowded, you REALLY have a lot of cards to pick from, but you can’t play that many of them. You can’t have half of your deck in the 3 mana slot, because your curve will be really messed up.
However, my biggest issue is that you want to run it in a deck full of Beasts, but you can’t really run it in a deck with Master's Call without ruining it quite consistently. If I had to pick between playing Master’s Call or Spirit of the Lynx in my Beast deck, I’d pick Master’s Call without any doubt.
Card rating: 3/10
Halazzi, the Lynx
Halazzi is a really cute refill card. I think that in vacuum the card is quite strong, as it gives you A LOT of pings, and pings are pretty good in Hunter, since the class has difficult access to them. But, there is one problem – it has insanely weak initial stats. You pay 5 mana for a 2-drop, which already pushes it out of the more tempo-oriented Hunter archetypes like Secret or maybe even Midrange. It doesn’t have any synergies with Deathrattle Hunter. It can’t be played in Spell Hunter, because it’s not a spell. So what deck would want to play it?
Well, there’s actually one. Quest Hunter. This expansion will be one last push for the Quest decks, including Quest Hunter (The Marsh Queen). The deck never really worked. The Quest was difficult to finish, and if it got finished, it wasn’t impactful enough. This card is interesting, because if you draw it, you’re basically guaranteed to finish it on T6. On top of that, it has synergies with some of the other Quest Hunter cards. For example, it’s pretty insane with Toxmonger, which turns the 1/1’s with Rush into 1 mana removals.
As for the other decks? Honestly, it’s hard to say. This card has a pretty cool effect, but it’s really hard to fit anywhere. The problem is that it’s a strictly value card, as the tempo you’re gaining is very, very low. Since you need to pay 1 mana for each of the Lynxes, it’s not like you can drop it and then catch up with the tempo next turn. No, your next turn is still very likely going to be slow. But having a bunch of 1/1’s vs not having them can make big difference if you’re playing the value war, or you’re in a topdeck mode.
I honestly don’t think that it will will make Quest Hunter viable (although I’m sure that players will try it), and it’s hard to find another deck that it might fit into. Because of that, I believe that the card is not too strong, but it has a cool effect nonetheless.
Card rating: 3/10
Do you guys remember Embrace the Shadow, which rotated out at the beginning of this year? Actually, it has seen some play as a combo with Circle of Healing. The fact that it was 2 mana cheaper made a big difference, and Auchenai Soulpriest was left as a 3/1 anyway, making it quite easy to deal with afterwards. This card is nearly strictly better (it’s worse in a way that you e.g. can’t discover it from Shadow Visions or it won’t get discounted by Radiant Elemental), having a 3/2 body on top of the same effect. The 3/2 body doesn’t matter if you’re comboing it with Circle of Healing (it dies anyway), but it will be relevant in many other scenarios.
For example, you can just drop it on T2 as a 3/2. Sure, it’s not the best thing ever, but if you need some board control, or you need to answer their 1-drop but you have no other way to do it, this can be good. Also, you can combo it with Hero Power on T4 if you need a 3/2 that deals 2. Can be solid if you really want to clear something.
It might also make it worth to run Regenerate in some Priest decks. Healing for 3 can come handy at times (e.g. heal up your minion and draw a card from Cleric, emergency healing when you need it), and then you would have four ways to turn it into damage. Obivously, 3 damage for 0 mana is a really powerful effect. You could even combo it with Hero Power on T4 for 5 damage in total – either use it to clear a minion or to burst face. Talking about face burst, if you somehow get to stick Malygos on the board (or revive him), playing this + 2x Regenerate can be a nice 16 damage burst.
I think that Auchenai Soulpriest is a bit better, mostly because it still leaves SOME body after the Circle combo, and the effect lasts for as long as it stays on the board (most of the time it’s positive, although it might not be if you’re running out of health). But I think that you might want to run it in decks that already run Soulpriest, simply for the sake of consistency. But as long as Duskbreaker is in Standard, Circle combos aren’t as necessary. When it leaves, this has a chance to see more play.
Card rating: 6/10, but probably better after Duskbreaker is gone from Standard and Priest will need another mid game AoE
This is an interesting card. While I wouldn’t call it a “sleeper” of the set revealed in the final dump, it might be better than a lot of people are giving it credit for. It’s a bit like the oldschool Nerubian Egg. While 4/4 has better stats, 3x 1/1 are certainly more powerful in some decks, decks that are based around flooding the board.
Maybe let’s start with quick Wild applications – I think that it might see play in Egg Druid (which loves board flooding), and maybe in a more board-floody Zoo Warlock deck. As for the Standard, it’s a bit more complicated.
Zoo Warlock might want to play it, but here’s the problem – it already runs Prince Keleseth in that slot. The current builds wouldn’t likely want to sacrifice Keleseth, but I could see a more board flood build working without him. You could run cards like
Luckily, the new Warlock spell that AoE buffs the board – Grim Rally – would resolve before Deathrattle, not buffing 1/1’s that come out of this Egg. Still, it might be a good way to make the card work – you would trigger the Egg AND buff the rest of your board. Grim Rally would also be quite powerful after you already destroy the Egg. You could also trigger it with Sanguine Reveler, Void Terror or Ravenous Pterrordax. The card has nice synergy with other minions, such as Knife Juggler or Sea Giant too.
Maybe an Aggro Token Druid will also make a comeback in Standard, because it would absolutely love this kind of card.
All in all, I think that this is a very strong card. It might not see play right away, but any deck that can trigger it quite consistently AND wants to flood the board might want this card. We might need to wait until the rotation before it actually sees play (as Prince Keleseth is just too good in a lot of builds), but I’m quite confident that it will be played in some meta decks eventually.
Card rating: 8/10 (but might be hard to fit after rotation)