It’s this time of the year again! If you’re anything like me, then reveal season is your favorite time in Hearthstone (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 (we’ll let you know when that happens), 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.
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!
Arch-Villain version of Rafaam is like a new take on Elise Starseeker, or Golden Monkey to be more precise. Funnily enough, Elise was part of the League of Explorers, an expansion from which Rafaam originated, so it all checks out. Unlike Elise, however, Rafaam’s effect is immediate – you don’t have to shuffle a card, then shuffle another card… but then again, it’s hard to say whether it’s an advantage or not. The fact that you could drop Elise as a 4 mana 3/5 without having to commit to her effect was good a lot of the time, but then again, sometimes you might have wanted to play the monkey earlier, and that was usually impossible (as it was one of the last cards in your deck majority of time).
The original Elise has actually seen some competitive play in Control decks (mostly in Warrior, but also in Priest) as a late game value card in Control mirrors. The thing about those is that once the game gets to fatigue, you end up with a bunch of useless cards, things like card draw, or AoE removals that you didn’t have an opportunity to play. In case of Warrior, it could have been Shield Block, Acolyte of Pain or Brawl. And that’s how I would imagine the new Rafaam being used.
I think that this card would mostly be a meta call. It would only really by useful in those grindy, slow matchups. Yes, you CAN drop it as a 7/8 Taunt against Aggro, but you don’t really want to replace your deck with random Legendaries on curve. It means that you’re getting rid of all the removals, all the consistency in your deck etc. which is much more important against Aggro. You COULD play it as a last ditch move when you’re desperate, but it’s not a good anti-Aggro card. It would, however, be amazing in Control vs Control matchups, when you get to fatigue. You could turn all of those useless late game cards (e.g. Mortal Coil) into random Legends, which would definitely have way more value. So in order for this card to see play, you would need to have a viable Control Warlock deck AND a solid part of your matchups would need to be other Control decks. But will that happen?
But then again, Control Warlock is looking TERRIBLY in the upcoming expansion. It loses most of its removals, life gain, as well as the late game win conditions (Bloodreaver Gul'dan and Rin, the First Disciple). It will need a lot, and I mean A LOT of amazing tools to work.
And while we’re at it, there’s also another potential use for the card – you could add it to some Midrange Warlock as a sort of late game tool, just like Odd Paladin often runs Prince Liam. Because you’d rather draw random Legendaries than your 1-2 mana cards in the late game. But then again, you’re making a big commitment – any kind of burn damage you might have is gone, any kind of synergies are also gone etc. It’s not like Liam, where only the weakest part of your deck is changed. That’s why I’m not convinced that it will be worth it.
P.S. You can also combo it with Hakkar, the Soulflayer! Just like Hakkar Paladin plays Liam. This way you turn Cursed Blood (as well as any other card) into random Legends, while your opponent is left with curse. That would be an amazing win con in slow matchups, but way too slow vs Aggro.
Card rating: 8/10 in a specific meta in which Control Warlock is viable and you play a lot of grindy mirrors, but that’s pretty unlikely, so I’d say 3/10 in general.
Looking at the card without any special synergies in mind, it’s absolutely terrible. It would be a 6 mana 6/6 in 90% of your games, since no matter what deck you play, most of your games won’t go to fatigue. And even if a game does, then you would still have to hold it in your hand. Not to mention that if you play decks that get to fatigue, you usually have some sort of game plan that involves it – e.g. a combo like Mecha'thun or Shirvallah, the Tiger + Holy Wrath, and you really don’t need a big board refill.
Of course, the effect itself is crazy powerful – flooding the board with 6/6’s is game winning unless your opponent has a big board wipe. But you absolutely need some extra game plan or synergies to use it, because playing it in a normal, “fair” way is not really a good option.
One thing that comes to mind right now is – obviously – Myra's Unstable Element. Since it draws the entire deck, you don’t have to wait until the very late game to hit fatigue – you can do it as soon as Turn 5. Playing T6 Myra’s into T7 this would win you a lot of games. But that’s still not a very consistent combo, since you need to have this in hand when playing Myra’s, or hope to draw it and not discard it. It would indeed be a disgusting finisher in Myra’s deck, but would you want to waste a slot for a card that’s otherwise pretty useless? Myra decks are generally tempo decks, and 7 mana 6/6 is not a good tempo card.
We stil have 120+ cards to go before the entire expansion is reveled, so we might see some sort of a way to get into fatigue early and more synergies that care about fatigue, but right now, it doesn’t look good. Combo with Myra’s is the only reason why I don’t rate this card 1/10, but that combo is still questionable at best (amazing if it works, but might not be consistent enough, and it adds a bad card to your deck in case you don’t draw Myra’s).
Card rating: 3/10
Before actually revieving those cards, let’s take a moment to look at the Lackeys. They are all 1 mana 1/1 cards with positive, but small Battlecry effects, and they will be generated by many cards. There are 5 of them in total: Ethereal Lackey, Faceless Lackey, Goblin Lackey, Kobold Lackey and Witchy Lackey. All of their effects are quite solid, even though ideally you would want to get the ones that synergize most with your deck (e.g. Discovering a spell or Evolving a minion can be more powerful in one deck than the other). In other words, you don’t mind getting them. Honestly, all of them would be really powerful 1-drops if they weren’t tokens!
Getting two Lackeys from a single card seems like a very solid effect, especially given that it’s a Rogue card. Keep in mind that Lackeys can be kept in hand and used as combo activators too (1 mana cards are very powerful in Rogue for that reason). 1/5 stats for 3 mana are quite weak (those are 2-drop stats, which means that it’s a low tempo play), but the extra value is really good. The problem is, however… that the card is Combo, not Battlecry. If it was Battlecry, I would call it absolutely amazing. But Combo is harder to activate. You don’t want to go out of your way to activate a combo on 3-drop that is low tempo. Lackeys can make up for some of that, but you really don’t want to be falling off with Rogue so early in the game.
Underestimating cards that give you cheap combo activators in Rogue is a mistake, so I won’t do that. And given that a lot of Tempo Rogue cards rotate out, it MIGHT see play in that deck. Especially if the build will be a little slower. Just that Combo restriction… Again, if it was a Battlecry, the card would be amazing. But as things stand right now, I feel like it’s just okay.
Card rating: 6/10
Finally, Priest has a “Word” card that can kill 4 Attack minions! That Turn 2 Innervate + Chillwind Yeti will no longer beat Anduin up… oh wait, we aren’t in Classic anymore. But still, 4 Attack minions were always a bane of Priest class, dodging both Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death.
As for Forbidden Words, to me, it almost seems like a SW:P upgrade. You will still probably want to keep your Death, because a part of the reason why it’s so powerful is the mana cost. 3 mana to deal with a big minion is really sweet. In this case, you will have to spend 8 mana to deal with 8 attack minion, and that’s not cool. HOWEVER, if you want to deal with 2 attack minion, like you often do with Pain, that’s 2 mana – exactly the same as with Pain. If you clear a 3 mana minion, it’s one mana more expensive, but it’s one mana cheaper in case of 1 mana minions. Then again, the reason why you might want this over Pain is flexibility. Pain can be a dead card in some matchups. Or even against Aggro, when they drop something bigger, you wish you’d had a way to remove it… and that’s it. You can still use it as Pain to remove small stuff, but you can also spend more mana and get rid of bigger stuff.
Flexibility is a big point of this card, and it will be really solid removal vs Aggro, and it won’t be a dead card vs Control (even if you will have to sacrifice some of the tempo). I like it, I think that at least one copy will be a staple in Control builds.
The only issue that spending all of the mana means that you will always want to play it last, which is not always the most optimal play. Just a simple example – you have Northshire Cleric on the board, your opponent has a Taunt and a small minion. You want to kill Taunt, trade into small minion and heal your Cleric. With a regular removal, you could easily do it. But with this card, you can’t, since removing Taunt means that you no longer have any mana left. Those situations won’t come up every time you have to use it, they will mostly be niche, but it can matter sometimes. Still, I like the card. If I would want to run SW:P, I’d most likely play this instead.
Card rating: 7/10
That’s an interesting card and a first of its kind. Scheme cards will start weak and upgrade each turn they sit in your hand. The problem is that there’s starting weak and there’s 1 AoE damage for 5 mana. Which is basically unplayable.
I’m very conflicted about this card. On the one hand, drawing it early vs Aggro is amazing. By turn 5, it will already be 3-4 damage, which will most likely be enough to clear their entire board. And that’s awesome. On the other hand, unlike other AoEs, if you topdeck it on Turn 5, it’s most likely unplayable. I mean, you can still use it as a Whirlwind, but you’re paying 5 mana for a 1 mana spell. That’s not good. The card starts being good only after sitting for 2 turns in your hand, and that’s often too long. Those two turns might mean that you’re dead against Aggro. And against Control, while you can afford to wait, you will likely need to keep it for longer than that, as their minions are usually bigger. Which makes this card quite weak compared to other removals in that mana range.
Still, given that Volcano rotates out, you might need to play it anyway. In case you want to play some sort of Control Shaman, having Lightning Storm as your only AoE doesn’t sound great (technically, Hagatha the Witch is also AoE, but that’s 8 mana).
Cards that need to sit for a while in your hand to become good aren’t very impressive. This one has some potential, but I don’t think it’s THAT powerful, like you wouldn’t play it over Volcano. Then again, it’s not a horrible card. In the end, it will probably still see play in any kind of slower Shaman build just because it will be the only option.
Card rating: 4/10, but there are no other mid/late game AoE options for Shaman, so it might see play I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Kalecgos is the most interesting out of the 8 cards revealed so far in my opinion. The card seems incredibly powerful at first, but I don’t think it’s as clear as it seems on the first sight. His effect is great, without a doubt. But we need to take the fact that it costs 10 mana into account. 10 mana is a lot, and I mean A LOT. 10 mana puts this card in “nearly useless against Aggro” territory, and that’s important. Plus, everyone is looking at the best case scenario of playing this into Flamestrike, Pyroblast and such. Which is not always the case – there’s a significant chance that you won’t discover any expensive spells, and you won’t likely be playing Pyroblast by yourself in a deck running 10 Mana minion. Flamestrike, yeah, probably, but again – the tempo gain from this minion + Flamestrike would work best against Aggro, but Turn 10 is too late against Aggro.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that Kalecgos is pretty solid. If Control Mage will be a thing after rotation, I suspect that it will see play. Maybe even Dragon Control Mage, or something like that? (all we need is 1 or 2 good Dragon synergies for Mage and that can happen) I think that it will be most impactful in Midrange matchups, the ones that still want to develop a solid board, but don’t want to rush you down so quickly. Against those decks, playing a big body AND getting some sweet extra tempo removals sounds great. And it’s obviously good vs Control – this time mostly because of its Battlecry, since it will usually be 2 for 1. It’s a bit similar to Ysera in that matter – both will rarely survive past the first turn, so an ongoing effect is mostly irrelevant, but both “cycle” themselves into another card right away, so even if they are removed, they’re still solid. The problem is that right now, Mage pool of spells doesn’t look particularly amazing. If we don’t count cards that rotate out, Mage has only FIVE 5+ mana spells. On the other hand, it has TWELVE 0-2 mana spells. The chance to discover one of them (and let’s be honest, most of them aren’t impactful in slow matchups) is very high.
With a lot of key pieces rotating out, Control Mage will really need some powerful cards to work. And Kalecgos, while strong, is not strong BY ITSELF. It needs good, high cost spells to work well. We need more of those in order for Control Mage in general and Kalecgos in particular to be viable. We really have to wait for the rest of Mage cards to see whether it will be strong. Like, a high cost Twinspell card would work incredibly well with it. You could drop it and play the first half, and then if it survives play the second half for free too.
Card rating: 8/10 in vaccuum, but heavily depends on Spells and other tools available to Mage, which don’t look promising after rotation
3 mana 3/4’s with upsides are always nice to see, but after having a lot of those already, we’ve pretty much established that the upside needs to be really solid for the card to see play. And this is… okay I guess? I’m not very impressed. Throughout most of the game, it’s just a vanilla 3 mana 3/4, which is not good enough. Most of the decks don’t want to randomly burn your face, only a small portion of decks in any meta is built around direct damage. I guess that if you face something like Tempo Mage, you can use it to stall for one turn in the late game. But against decks that want to burn your face with spells, you would be better off running some healing instead, since this one won’t keep you alive in the long run.
It can also be used to stall one turn against certain combos that require your opponent to target your Hero. For example, you can play it vs Holy Wrath Paladin to prevent them from shooting your face for 25, but only for a single turn. If you’re ahead on the board and you need just one more turn to win, it would probably be really nice… but in other scenarios, they would just wait one more turn and combo you anyway.
Since it only prevents opponent from TARGETING you, it doesn’t block a lot of combos, such as Priest’s Mind Blast. It also does not prevent any minion or weapon damage, so… I think that it’s too situational to see play. Maybe in the right meta, it can be used as a tech card, especially in the new Specialist format (tech cards will be much more common in Secondary & Tertiary decks). But I still doubt.
It reminds me a bit of Kobold Monk. They both had premium stats for their mana cost, and Kobold Monk’s effect was ongoing… so I guess that it was stronger or weaker depending on situation. On the one hand, it could last for a few turns, but on the other, if it died right away, it didn’t do anything (besides having pseudo-Taunt). Still, Kobold Monk has seen exactly zero play, despite being pretty similar in power level (forcing burn decks to kill it was a win, and Combo decks could rarely remove it AND combo you on the same turn and yet it still wasn’t played).
Card rating: 3/10
The Forest’s Aid
I actually really like the card. It’s obviously incredibly slow, so not good vs Aggro decks, but it’s exactly what Token/Treant Druid needs vs slow builds. The deck is all about “refill the board until they run out of ways to clear your board and then combo them down with Savage Roar“, and this card is perfect for that. You can run only a single copy of this and get not one, but TWO big board refills vs slow decks. You basically force them to use two more AoEs back to back, or else you threaten an easy kill (this + a single SR = 22 damage). And keep in mind that the deck will need this more than ever. Right now, it can just play all of those high tempo cards and just refill everything with Ultimate Infestation. After rotation, it will no longer be possible, so it will rely on topdecks much more. This card is amazing late game card vs Control, because it lets you spend two turns making solid plays while using only a single card in total.
Of course, against Aggro, it’s pretty much a dead card. You won’t likely need more than one or two board fills, since they have no way to clear those anyway. What you need are ways to survive. And that’s where the problems start. Spreading Plague was the main reason why Token Druid was good vs fast decks, and the card is gone from Standard. Similarly, Branching Paths is what often kept you alive long enough to swing the board in your favor. Not to mention that Branching Paths was also big in slow matchups, as 3rd and 4th Savage Roar. Losing other cards like Malfurion the Pestilent, Ultimate Infestation or even Lesser Jasper Spellstone hurts too. Between all those rotations and the fact that the class was heavily nerfed, it will be very, very hard to make it playable again.
The card is okay. Not amazing, just solid, but it’s one of the things that Token Druid needs. Especially in a slower meta. I would totally put 2x of that into Token/Treant Druid if the meta was slow enough (if it wasn’t, probably 0-1). The problem is, however, that it needs much more. Stuff like new, good ramp cards (especially since Greedy Sprite is out), some anti-Aggro tools / cheap removals, late game refill, maybe another AoE buff… Druids needs at least some of those for the Token strategy to be viable. But this one is an okay start.
Card rating: 6/10