It’s a long wait this time. All Murder at Castle Nathria cards were revealed and several content creators also got to play with the new cards last week, but the expansion launch is not happening until next week. In the meantime, there is now an excellent opportunity to analyze the experiences with the new cards so far. I was one of the content creators who got to play some Murder at Castle Nathria in advance, and here is what I learned from those six hours and from reading about other people’s experiences afterward.
It is important to note that the creator event does not give you a complete picture of the expansion. The rules of the event required ten new cards in each deck, which ruled out several archetypes. Curse Warlock with some Shadow spell repetition? Not doable with ten new cards. Control Warrior? I could not find a way to build one with ten new cards in it. Overall, the level of Control support in Murder at Castle Nathria is low, but that does not mean that control decks with a few new cards could not make it. We just did not get to see them played yet. In many ways, this is a good thing, as there are still many things left to explore when the expansion launches. However, there are also lots of things we already learned from the pre-release event. Let’s take a closer look at what the event taught us!
The Talk of the Town: APM Miracle Rogue
I have never been a fan of APM decks. Coming from an old-school Magic background, when you had an infinite combo, you just showed it – assuming your opponent was tapped out – and that was the game. No need to repeat the actions 30 times against a timer to see if you can actually pull it off. Hearthstone, on the other hand, periodically encourages decks where you need to cram as many actions as possible into a single turn and compete against the clock to see if you can do them all.
The APM deck in Murder at Castle Nathria is Miracle Rogue. You play as many cards as you can in a single turn to either create big Stealth minions from Sinstone Graveyard or a huge dagger from Necrolord Draka. With some card draw from Gadgetzan Auctioneer (yes, really), you can pull off some insane moves at around turn five or six.
Here is what it looks like to face one of these new Rogue decks:
There are ways to counter the deck, of course. They need to attack, so Taunt minions can help, for example. However, Taunt minions are not guaranteed to succeed because cards like Backstab and Serrated Bone Spike can clear the path.
It will take some time for the deck to get fine-tuned to maximize consistency, but it could look something like this:
I get some serious Garrote Rogue vibes from this new archetype. It should be skill-intensive, maybe viable at some levels, and hideously bad in the hands of an average player.
Druid Looks Good, Who Could Have Guessed?
Druid is just always good, right? As long as you can ramp, you can scam games from anyone, and Druid gets a wonderful new ramp card in Widowbloom Seedsman. Just an incredibly powerful card that fits into any Druid deck that wants to ramp. You will lose the ability to use Vanndar Stormpike, but that is a small price to pay for more ramp.
There is also a lot of talk about Convoke the Spirits. Some have even said that it is a stronger Rune of the Archmage. I disagree. I was not impressed by Convoke. Sure, Convoke can do some fine things, like get you some minions on the board and draw some cards. Sometimes it even plays Celestial Alignment for you. It may also help you clear boards, but much of the time it is a bad card to play when you’re behind as it usually does not clear the board and it may even buff the opponent’s minions. The ideal situation to play Convoke is when your hand is almost empty and the board is empty. It gives you a board and a refill. However, those situations do not come often for a Druid.
Here are some Convoke plays to show you what I mean:
I think the best Druid card in the expansion is Topior the Shrubbagazzor. Gettings those Whelps into play all the time as almost all Druid spells are Nature spells is just crazy. Ramp, an army of tokens, and Brann Bronzebeard and Sire Denathrius as a finisher. That’s the Druid deck I am scared of.
I played with multiple variants of the general idea, including without Sire Denathrius, and Topior the Shrubbagazzor can also win games by itself, so the deck is not as weak to Mutanus the Devourer as one might think.
Here is what the list might look like:
- 0Aquatic Form2
- 1Living Roots2
- 1Planted Evidence2
- 2Capture Coldtooth Mine2
- 2Jerry Rig Carpenter2
- 2Moonlit Guidance2
- 2Natural Causes2
- 2Thorngrowth Sentries2
- 3Herald of Nature2
- 3Wild Growth2
- 4Widowbloom Seedsman2
- 5Flipper Friends2
- 5Wildheart Guff1
- 7Scale of Onyxia2
- 7Topior the Shrubbagazzor1
Others have less faith in Topior and even more in Denathrius. For example, Meati tweeted about this Beast Druid idea after the theorycrafting streams:
Beast Druid has been resilient, and maybe Sire Denathrius can fit into the deck as a finisher.
Warlock Looks Imp-ressive
While I’m sad that the event rules prevented me from playing Control Warlock, Warlock did extremely well in the theorycrafting event. It is all about those imps! The Warlock deck recipe is an aggressive Imp Warlock and even such a simple deck did well.
Nohandsgamer took things a step further and played this Imp Zoolock deck:
The Imp tribe can be a little difficult to grasp. There are lots of cards that have Imp in their name, but there are also several Imps that are not called Imp. The Fiend summoned by Dark Alley Pact is actually an Imp and can be resurrected by Imp King Rafaam. Yeah, I want to build a Handlock based on that interaction too. But for this event, Nohandsgamer went with a more impish theme, mixing hand synergies with Zoo capabilities. Some kind of more aggressive approach, either pure aggro or a mix like this Nohandsgamer’s deck, is likely to be better than Control Warlock, anyway.
It’s Skeleton Time for Mage
I was not impressed by Mage’s Secret package, but the Skeletons showed more promise. The real question is what kind of deck do you build around them? A 40-card or 30-card deck that runs the Mage Hero card and the ping package? 30 cards and all out on skellies? Do you even put Deathborne into the deck?
Here is one idea of what the deck could look like:
Suspicious Alchemist generally felt weaker than I had expected during the event, so I’m hesitant to use it. Frozen Touch, on the other hand, has good synergy with the Volatile Skeletons: as you keep making more Skeletons, you can infuse the Frozen Touch in your hand over and over again.
Nightcloak Sanctum was clearly the strongest card in the Skeleton package, and probably good enough to be played outside of the package as well. Deathborne was mostly useful for blowing up your own Skeletons when the opponent left them alone, as there were not many situations where two damage kills anything otherwise.
The combination of Brann Bronzebeard + Kael'thas Sinstrider + either Kel'Thuzad, the Inevitable or Mordresh Fire Eye is a strong potential finisher. There is some sweet synergy with Brann and Kael’thas taking up board space and therefore blowing up even more Skeletons from Kel’Thuzad.
The big thing to figure out is whether to use Prince Renathal in Mage. In the current Big Spell Mage decks, the 30-card and 40-card versions are neck and neck. It really depends on the meta whether you value the increased Health or the improved consistency.
Other Potential Meta Winners: Hunter and Priest
The theorycrafting event required at least ten new cards in each deck. That is why we did not get to see decks like Control Warlock. That said, I don’t expect control decks to be the big winners in the new expansion anyway, even if they are playable. The current top meta decks like Quest Hunter are not necessarily going away, as there is no Standard rotation with the launch of Murder at Castle Nathria. Quest Hunter did not receive anything of value either, though.
There are two decks that I believe will receive some sweet improvements but were not seen in the pre-release event: Beast Hunter and Naga Druid. Castle Kennels and Wildseeds look like a good fit to Beast Hunter, and Naga Priest is itching to play with Partner in Crime and Cathedral of Atonement.
Here are some thoughts on what Beast Hunter with Wildseeds could look like:
- 1Batty Guest2
- 2Castle Kennels2
- 2Doggie Biscuit2
- 2Selective Breeder2
- 2Spirit Poacher2
- 3Harpoon Gun2
- 3Ramming Mount2
- 3Stag Charge2
- 3Wild Spirits2
- 4Azsharan Saber1
- 5Pet Collector2
- 5The Rat King1
- 6Beaststalker Tavish1
- 7Huntsman Altimor1
- 7Mountain Bear2
- 9King Krush1
- 9Wing Commander Ichman1
This deck actually includes 11 new cards, so it would have been eligible for play in the theorycrafting event. Perhaps that is too many though and a smaller Wildseed package will prove to be more optimal. Also, if you build a 30-card version of the deck, it will be more difficult to fit in the Wildseeds. The Wildseed package felt too weak to play in an aggro deck, but it had some power in it, so finding just the right speed to optimize the Wildseed performance will be the main deckbuilding challenge with them.
Castle Nathria Naga Priest could look something like this:
There are five new cards in the deck: Pelagos, two copies of Cathedral of Atonement, and two copies of Partner in Crime. This gives the deck more opportunities to just blow the opponent out of the game.
I contemplated for some time between using a copy of Queensguard or including Blademaster Samuro. Samuro has been less than stellar in the current Naga Priest, but the addition of Cathedral of Atonement and Pelagos might turn it into a really scary board clear tool, so I decided to go with it in the end.
The closest we got to Naga Priest in the theorycrafting event was Jambre’s Tempo Priest, which makes use of many of the same ideas and adds Boon of the Ascended on top. It lacks the Naga synergies, of course, but it just might be explosive enough to be better:
What About the Other Classes?
That still leaves four classes: Demon Hunter, Paladin, Shaman, and Warrior.
Demon Hunter gets two clear packages. There’s the hand manipulation aggro package that throws cards back into the deck and sometimes even discards them and draws new cards to replace them, all while keeping up aggression. I won a bunch of games with a deck like that in the event, but it never felt super strong.
Freed from the event card restrictions, the deck could look something like this:
The other package Demon Hunter gets is Relics. Relics are slower and could fit into some kind of Fel Demon Hunter, and there is even a deck like that in the new deck recipes. Whether it is fast enough remains to be seen.
Paladin gets support for Silver Hand Recruits and for a Pure Paladin theme. Neither looks too impressive. Quest Paladin was memed with by multiple content creators, but it does not look like a serious deck. The Pure theme gets Elitist Snob and The Countess, but it looks hopelessly slow and lacking. Elitist Snob can go into Handbuff Paladin too though, so maybe there will be some way to build strong Paladin decks when venturing outside the pushed archetypes.
Shaman gets Totem support and yet another round of Evolve cards. Totems suck. The Stonewright cannot be tutored effectively, and without it, Totems are useless. The best Totem is Gigantotem, and maybe there is a way to add some small Totem package to a deck just to discount Gigantotems. Evolve decks need some work and they did not look as oppressive as they have sometimes been, but they are far stronger than Totems.
Warrior was given a whole lot of nothing. The pushed theme is Pain Warrior, but I was not very impressed by it.
Here is what Warshack did with the archetype:
I think at least Burden of Pride ends up getting cut outside of the event, but you get a bit of an idea of what the upcoming Warrior decks may look like. You can never rule out Control Warrior either, but that archetype is in a difficult spot already now and gets no improvements, so it is going to be tough. I’ll still build one for day one as always, we’ll see how it goes.
A New Expansion, a New Meta
One more week to go before Murder at Castle Nathria launches! The new expansion is pushing several new archetypes, and it looks like some of them will make it to the meta. I hope this preview showcased some of the potential decks of the new expansion and helps you to get ready for next week.