The Most Promising New Decks from Festival of Legends Hearthstone Theorycrafting Event!

I had the pleasure to be invited by Blizzard to join the theorycrafting livestreams event where select content creators got to play with the new Festival of Legends cards in advance. Overall, I played with the new cards for ten hours, and I had a blast!

Now, it is important to temper your expectations about the new meta based on the theorycrafting event alone. In the event, each deck had to include at least ten cards from Festival of Legends, which means that some old archetypes could not be used at all, and some decks needed to figure out ways to include enough new cards to be eligible. Regardless, it is completely different to evaluate cards after seeing them in action as compared to simply theorizing about their performance based on just the card text and some math on probabilities.

Here are my initial impressions of what looked good during the event.

Warrior is Alive?

I spent a lot of time playing Warrior. I brought just about all types of Warrior decks you can think of. I had two different Menagerie variants, a Tony Combo Warrior, a disruption-based Control Warrior, a Taunt Warrior with Armagedillo, and a Control Warrior with huge Trenchstalkers thanks to Blackrock 'n' Roll. What can I say? I really like Warrior and I desperately wanted to know if it is playable in the new expansion.

I faced many disappointments, as expected when playing Warrior, I suppose. Taunt Warrior has a hard time defending, the Taunt minions just are not proactive enough. I did enjoy Festival Security a lot. Throw some buffs onto it and it is pretty good. Disruption-based Control Warrior cannot survive the pressure real decks put on it. I know this may come as a shock, but playing until fatigue is not an option in modern Hearthstone. I was a bit more surprised by the poor performance of Tony Warrior. Both my deck and the Tony Warriors I faced simply crumbled. Even after destroying the opponent’s deck, you are likely to lose because the effort to destroy the deck lets your defense down for a moment and the opponent is able to finish the job with the cards they have in hand.

However, there is also good news for Warrior. I played two different Menagerie variants, and went 3-0 with both of them, for a total of 6-0 as Menagerie Warrior. The decks did not feel like 100% win rate decks, but somehow they just pulled it off regardless.

The first Menagerie Warrior I played was the deck I featured in the Warrior theorycrafting article:

The second was based on the same core but cut the Battlecry cards in favor of the new Warrior Riff cards:

I think Menagerie Warrior will be a fascinating deck-building challenge when the expansion launches. I had great success with Riffs and Battlecry effects, and I know FunkiMonki did really well with a Mech theme in his Menagerie Warrior. This is peak Hearthstone: the deck has a common core, but there are several paths that you can take you fully flesh it out. I am sure some streamer’s variant will become the dominant way to build this archetype shortly after the expansion is live, but if you want to think outside the box and build your own stuff, Menagerie Warrior will offer wonderful opportunities: whichever the early dominant variant will be, it is unlikely to be the ultimate best version of the deck.

Control Warrior is not completely dead either. While Disruption and Tony failed, I was positively impressed by the performance of Blackrock 'n' Roll. Together with Lor'themar Theron, it is able to build up some 34/36 Trenchstalkers and a 24/34 Remornia, Living Blade. Remornia is actually sweet when it has enough stats. At 5/10, it is a whimper, but at 24/34, it obliterates anything and everything in its path.

Granted, Menagerie Warrior felt like the superior archetype, but there is still something to look forward to for Control Warrior fans.

Most of the Warrior set exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed every single card apart from Kodohide Drumkit. Its area-of-effect damage ramps up too slowly as it only gains one point of damage each time you gain Armor, regardless of how much Armor you gain at a time. I just could not find an adequate replacement because Control Warrior needs board clears. That one sub-par board-clear card weakens the entire archetype.

Big Beast Hunter is Crazy Strong

Another class that I really looked forward to playing was Hunter. Hunter is getting a new Big Beast package in Festival of Legends, and it is worth every penny. In addition to the Menagerie Warriors, Big Beast Hunter was my only 100% win rate deck in the event:

The pressure that Big Beast Hunter can apply is just completely bonkers. First, you have the full Wildseed package that can win games alone. Then, you follow that up with big Beasts that either Rush or Charge and can get resurrected later. Opponents simply crumbled against this deck, and I have to admit that many of my decks crumbled when facing this archetype as well.

This is the archetype that felt the strongest to me overall. Games with it felt smooth, and playing against it felt difficult to the point of hopelessness.

Hero Power Druid is the Talk of the Town

Many players have been incredibly positive about Hero Power Druid. I played a number of games with the archetype myself as well, and it felt strong.

There are multiple approaches you can take to the archetype, but what they all have in common are ramp cards and the new Druid Hero Power minions Free Spirit and Groovy Cat. Just your regular copies in the deck can turn your Hero Power into +5 Attack / +5 Armor each use, and some variants go for resurrections on the minions to push this even further. Odd Warrior feels sad to see Druid gain so much armor so easily.

The featured list comes from Jambre. This version does not pump up the Hero Power to 11, but it makes up for that with its big swing turns with Anub'RekhanUnderking, and Zok Fogsnout. The additional Armor cards can really push the Health of Zok’s Quilboars to form an impressive wall.

Other approaches to the archetype include resurrections and additional Deathrattle activations with Unending Swarm, Hedge Maze, and Death Blossom Whomper and I also saw a list from FunkiMonki that went with a lower curve and used Drum Circle to build impressive walls early in the game.

Building up your Hero Power is great, but the deck needs something more than just the Hero Power to be great. Various big summon turns that swing the game seem to be the most effective approach, but there is still much to figure out about the exact card combinations that will be used to achieve them.

The Most Frustrating Opponent to Meet – Mage

Out of the decks at the event, one shined as the most frustrating experience to play against. I felt Hunter was the strongest, but you could see where the game was going all along. Not so with Mage. A Mage that Discovers multiple copies of Lightshow or Solid Alibi and recreates those spells with Rewind and Commander Sivara is officially the public meta enemy #1. Just when you think that surely they cannot have another copy ready, they do.

These Mage decks came in two forms. One survives with Solid Alibi until it is DJ Manastorm time to get some Pyroblasts rolling. This is the version I felt was less intimidating overall, although some people met up to seven copies of Solid Alibi when trying to beat them. It was actually one of the few decks that I was able to beat with Tony Warrior. Turns out that if the DJ gets evicted, the party is over.

The more intimidating variant is the one that just keeps shooting at you with Lightshow. The show never ends against this one, and each time is more grandiose than the last.

Outcast Demon Hunter – Good or Bad?

There are severe limitations in what you can find out during a single gameplay event. The biggest discrepancy I have come across between my own experiences and that of others is Demon Hunter. I did not play Demon Hunter myself, and every time I met one, they just crumbled and perished. My personal impression was that Demon Hunter missed hard on this set.

However, I have seen many content creators talk about how Demon Hunter was one of their favorites at the event. The lists they show are similar to what I played against and considered junk. It will take hundreds of games to see the real situation. Either way, this is the way many Outcast Demon Hunter decks were built in the event:

Handbuff Death Knight is Becoming Real

In March of the Lich King, Death Knight largely focused on using a single rune type. The big payoff cards were simply too much to skip, and while there was some support for Handbuff Death Knight that would run Blood and Unholy runes, the support was eventually too weak to make it mainstream. In Festival of Legends, there are several new synergy cards, especially Harmonic Metal and the Neutral Party Animal, that are making handbuffs a real thing.

I had the pleasure to get blown to bits twice by double Harmonic Metal buffing up Nerubian Swarmguard. I am not sure whether the deck has a consistent enough a gameplan, but its highrolls mean business.

What About the Other Classes?

Pure Paladin looked strong. Disco Maul puts on some real pressure and Jitterbug provides the Paladin with some much-needed card draw. The ten new cards format may not have been the best for Paladin, but I expect the class to be competitive in Festival of Legends.

I did not see much of Priest. The new Overheal mechanic felt lackluster and Priest tended to just lose. Note that Undead Priest is a perfectly capable deck on the ladder at the moment, and it is not losing too much in the rotation, so it has a good chance to continue to be relevant.

The Rogue decks I met in the event were mostly memeing. An endless stream of Freebirds does not look like a real deck. However, Rogue retains a lot of power from the existing expansions, and once they can play a fully-kitted Miracle Rogue with mostly old cards, Rogue has a good chance on the ladder.

Shaman did not feel like a serious contender. Yeah, my Tony Warrior did die to four copies of Ragnaros the Firelord thanks to JIVE, INSECT!Jazz Bass, and Criminal Lineup, but I don’t expect that to be a real deck. It does not have the explosive power that Evolve Shaman did, and what power it does have comes online way too late. If summoning four copies of Ragnaros turns out to be a mainstream strategy, it is going to be a strange meta.

Warlock is one of the most interesting classes. The Fatigue damage package does work. It works in both Imp Warlock and slower Warlock decks. None of them are just obviously great. I had an OK time with Imp Warlock and with a slower Curse Warlock. I also saw people play Control Warlock with Symphony of Sins as the main win condition. The Movements are strong, but the card is quite unreliable. With seven Movements, you miss out on the perfect one more often than you hit it.

Here’s the Imp Warlock I played. The two Legendary cards may not be needed in the actual ladder list, but this may give you an idea of how to incorporate the Fatigue damage package into the deck. I ended up cutting Felstring Harp from this one: it is good in slower decks, but not so much in Imp Warlock, a much more proactive deck that cares for tempo.

Overall Impressions

I feel positive about Festival of Legends after the test games. Multiple packages, like Riffs in Warrior and the Fatigue damage cards in Warlock, exceeded my expectations and were fun to play with.

Obviously, the event decks were built with the constriction that you had to use ten new cards in each deck. Many strong decks could not be built and used in the event, so the actual ladder meta will be more ruthless than the showcase. Nonetheless, I was positively surprised by multiple cards and look forward to playing with them on the actual ladder next week.

Old Guardian

Ville "Old Guardian" Kilkku is a writer and video creator focused on analytic, educational Hearthstone, and building innovative Standard format decks. Youtube: Twitch:

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