The Guy Before the Lambs: The Diary of My Journey to 1000 Death Knight Wins (Part 3)

Like so many of you, I noped out of the current Standard environment until the next patch, and it was quite serendipitous that I did so, for it allowed me to experience a super-fun Death Knight deck that might sound nonsensical at first, but it is actually a very neat little package that can even keep up with the rigors of the Wild format: Even Unholy Death Knight, a corpse-generating, Infuse-slinging, damage-dealing machine that is very much up my alley.

Where the Wild things are

I was a bit too quick to dismiss what Death Knights have to offer for Wild players. As dedicated members of the community quickly found out, there’s a strong synergy that pushes Undead runes into playability that isn’t available in Standard: Genn Greymane and his wonderful, format-warping ability.

The 1-mana version of the hero power works like a charm and it enables so many new options that it genuinely makes me sad about its actual cost. Having a guaranteed Corpse for turn two makes otherwise inflexible cards like Battlefield Necromancer and Bonedigger Geist ultra-powerful plays on curve. The ease and low cost of the ping also supercharges Infuse synergies, making Priest of the Deceased and Murlocula better tempo plays than they have ever been before.

It all comes together so nicely, and it is a ton of fun to play. The cumulative effects of these little benefits are enough to make the Even Unholy Death Knight deck strong enough even for Wild, as evidenced by the three different Legend builds below. Personally, I went with the low-curve option, because I didn’t feel like Lord Marrowgar does enough when I can’t finish off an opponent quickly. No amount of rushing giga-corpses in the world will help me swing the matchup around against a Big Priest player that already got its stuff online. No, I’ll take my Grave Strength finishers (another card that benefits from the one-cost hero power for added burn potential) and keep on winning over 65% of my games, thank you very much!

Why U No Standard (Or Arena)?

It’s been fun, in a way Standard Hearthstone definitely hasn’t been. I expressed unwarranted optimism about the Frost Death Knight deck’s Rogue matchup, and the difference in the quality of play before and after climbing all the way to the orange hexagon was keenly felt. No doubt a part of this was simply due to the continuous downward trickle of information, but the pilots have been better, too, and chipping away at those tiny margins suffocated my experience. Thief Rogue is also the kind of deck I absolutely despise, so I wasn’t going to subject myself to the matchup over and over again. We’ll have to see what’s up after the patch.

Speaking of what’s up after the patch, the devs finally removed Malignant Horror from the Arena pool. There’s not much to add to this conversation at this point: the card does too much in a low-power level limited format and easily decided games all by itself. It had to go. Anyway, the class is still at a 57.6% win rate at the time of writing per HSReplay, but the pre-patch decks will take a few more days to filter themselves out of the metagame, so the jury is still out on whether the changes are big enough. Okay, who am I kidding – even if Death Knight falls down in Arena, it won’t likely be below 55%, which is more in line with other classes, but still too powerful. At least right now Druids, Warlocks and Shamans (barely) crept above the 50% mark, a momentous achievement. Too bad that the bottom classes are still closer to 40%.

It would be interesting to do the math on what win percentage difference makes it worthwhile to try and draft Death Knights in the Arena over and over again rather than playing Standard games at the same time, from a “get to 1000 wins” perspective. Answers on a postcard, or in the comment section, please! It should be a nice brain teaser while we await the next patch.

A Fond Farewell to Competitive Hearthstone

I know it’s a bit off-topic, but I had to share my thoughts about the recent announcement. In the meantime, Hearthstone esports also gained the Undead rune. The tenth year of the circuit will only feature a shambling corpse, a zombie of competition with just a few events. There’s little reason to expect the team to turn this around as it was their constant micromanagement that crippled a flourishing grassroots scene.

This is also somewhat personal to me. Hearthstone was the first game I got to write about as a paid gig after a long stretch of freebie blogging. (OGs might remember HearthstonePlayers!) I railed against the direction of the game many times and was regularly disappointed by the direction its competitive scene kept taking. After all, we got Tavern Brawls instead of a tournament mode. Not to mention gems like the competitive Taunt Warrior mirrors from Un’goro (highlight at 16:40):

I don’t believe those who say that there is no skill to be tested in Hearthstone. Everyone remembers the clown fiesta Game 5 from Hunterace versus Viper. I remember Viper’s misplay from the first game with his Zoo deck: had he not made it, we wouldn’t have gotten that stupid match at all.

The win rates required to consistently reach the highest levels of the ladder would be impressive enough in any other competitive game. It was always going to be a matter of sample size: think about the endless number of poker tournaments running at any given time, the number of tournaments that are part of any WSOP. Or even look at Magic the Gathering and the many small-scale ways for you to compete and to challenge yourself. Best-of-five series where the bans brutally skew the matchup percentages, and just a couple of tournaments each year, were never going to do it.

The vision kept changing but it never made sense. Why did they try to force it all offline, from Fireside Gatherings to international LANs where only the top five made money once you factored in the costs? After neutering third-party tournaments and not providing strong enough incentives for the content creators that brought along massive and loyal audiences.

Not only that, but the events remained amateurish afterthoughts throughout. For those involved in the competitive scene, there were too many scandals to count. Sequinox. HCT Seoul. Battlefy’s API. Blitzchung. I could go on.

We had something special in 2014. Not only was it not built upon, but it was actively razed to the ground. So, all that’s left to do now is to add plus one to the corpse counter.


Luci Kelemen is an avid strategy gamer and writer who has been following Hearthstone ever since its inception. His content has previously appeared on HearthstonePlayers and Tempo/Storm's site.

Check out Yellorambo on Twitter!

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One Comment

  1. Tailsfromvienna
    January 29, 2023 at 10:30 pm

    Lord Marrowgar is a good card.
    It just deactivates Grave Strength and it’s totally awful when it gets hit by Mutanus, but I would definitely play it