The beta season of Twist was basically a rerun of United in Stormwind Questlines. The first full season of Twist, Wonders, is something completely different. The Wonders format includes cards from the first years of Hearthstone, up to Mean Streets of Gadgetzan which was released in December 2016. However, there is a twist. In addition to the old cards, the format also includes the new direct-to-Wild expansion Caverns of Time which includes 34 new cards and 113 buffs to old cards. This inclusion changes everything. You can still play some of your old 2016 favorite decks, but many of the strongest cards now are the buffed or new cards, so the power balance has changed. It is both familiar and new at the same time. A view of the game Hearthstone used to be, but still different. And it’s awesome.
In modern Hearthstone, players rarely run out of resources. You keep drawing, generating, and Discovering answers from your class and from other classes in an endless stream of stuff. In Twist Wonders, drawing cards is a luxury. Discover effects are limited. You need to be careful with the way you spend your cards and you can easily end up with none in hand. Strategy, not just tactics, has returned to Hearthstone in Twist.
This is not to say that games cannot end quickly or that they are not decided by random effects. There are some extremely snowbally decks in the format. Undertaker and the buffed Tiny Knight of Evil will end games if they are not answered immediately. The refreshed triple-class Discover cards – Lotus Agents, Kabal Courier, and Grimestreet Informant – give you a glimpse of modern Hearthstone, transported into ages past, and can win games out of nowhere. The improved Confessor Paletress is a threat unlike ever before (if you could live long enough to use it). But all of this comes in limited quantities. In modern Hearthstone, the biggest swings of Twist happen in every game, whereas in Twist Wonders they happen every once in a while. For the most part, it is a battle of wits and strategy with the cards that you have chosen for your deck.
It is hard to overstate how important Caverns of Time is for all this. Many of the 34 new cards are useful, and the 113 buffs are like getting a balance patch with 113 changes. Yes, you sort of know these cards, but you actually don’t. Without Caverns of Time, Twist Wonders would be a pure nostalgia trip. Still an interesting one, especially the contrast between the abundance of resources you have in modern Hearthstone and the scarcity of resources you had to live with in 2016. Caverns of Time provides some glimpses of modern power level to the format and changes the balance so that it does not feel like playing a rehash of 2016 Hearthstone.
Consequently, the meta is still in flux. There is a lot left to discover and you can succeed with many off-meta decks. I have had a great time playing a variety of archetypes that see only a few mentions anywhere on the internet. Of course, there are early top-tier decks as well, and you need to be familiar with them if you want to brew your own to succeed against them.
The Two Towers: Discard Warlock and Jade Rogue
The top two early contenders in Twist Wonders have been Discard Warlock and Jade Rogue. They are both defined by their ability to draw a lot of cards. When resources are usually limited, drawing more cards than your opponent is a highly useful skill to have.
Discard Warlock is mainly built around the new Chamber of Viscidus. The card has become a dominant force in Wild and skyrocketed Discard Warlock to the top of the meta there. Even though Discard Warlock misses out on many of its Wild staples in Twist Wonders, it has just enough to succeed. Malchezaar's Imp is a powerful card draw tool that also works in conjunction with Chamber of Viscidus, and together they supercharge Tiny Knight of Evil and you end up in positions like this on turn 5:
Play Tiny Knight. Protect Tiny Knight. Win. That’s the main plan.
Even Siphon Soul is playable in the deck because it helps you to protect the Tiny Knight and to remove big Taunts from the way so that Tiny Knight can connect to the face more. However, even if Tiny Knight fails, the deck still has more demonic power that can push through. A scary aggro deck, overall.
The other early top contender is Jade Rogue. Jade Rogue got a lot of buffs in Caverns of Time and this has pushed it ahead of the other Jade decks. Rogue even got a completely new Jade card, Jade Telegram, which is totally bonkers in this format. You summon a Jade Golem and you get to remove your opponent’s best card from their hand. In a format where card draw is limited, Rogue being able to give their opponent minus one draw is incredible.
Jade Rogue also got buffs for Jade Swarmer, Undercity Huckster, and Lotus Agents. Faster Jades and easier resource generation mean that Jade Rogue hits the board running and will not stop until either player is dead.
If this is not enough, Rogue also got a wonderful new Legendary card in Caverns of Time, The Scarab Lord. Play The Scarab Lord and swing your dagger at the gong, and you get a boardful of 1/1 minions with another boardful ready to arrive later.
There are currently a few flex spots that people are playing around with in Jade Rogue. Sapoten’s list fills these with a Leeroy Jenkins combo, complete with Shadowstep and two copies of Cold Blood. The list also includes The Black Knight as a tech card. In some lists, those slots are filled with Undercity Hucksters, Bloodmage Thalnos, Azure Drakes, Fan of Knives, or Dark Iron Skulkers for some additional spell damage, area-of-effect damage, and card draw.
The final composition will depend on the overall meta, but Jade Rogue looks to be in an excellent position thanks to its flexibility, incredible card draw, and raw power.
The Challenger: N’Zoth Control Warrior
Despite the power of aggressive decks, it is also possible to succeed with defensive strategies. The forerunner of control success in Twist Wonders is N’Zoth Warrior. Warrior is one of the few classes that can answer huge snowballing threats with a combination of Taunt minions and removal spells.
The deck can largely focus on removal thanks to the buffed Iron Juggernaut. When Iron Juggernaut is resurrected by N'Zoth, The Corruptor, the opponent will have 30 damage worth of bombs in the deck. Two copies of Blast from the Past add another 10 damage, and you also have some minion pressure, including a huge board from your N’Zoth turn. N’Zoth Warrior brings a lot of late-game lethality with a fairly small package of cards.
Warrior’s main weakness is card draw. Unlike the two top decks, Warrior cannot easily dig through their deck and find just the right cards. Acolyte of Pain helps a little, but there is no Risky Skipper in the format to turn it into a whirlwind of card draw. Ivory Rook, a new Caverns of Time card, plays an important role in generating more resources: Discover effects are powerful in Wonders. If Warrior finds the right tools, it has everything it needs to beat Warlock and Rogue. However, sometimes the Warrior just cannot draw fast enough. This makes it the third-best deck in the format.
Bubbling Under: There Are So Many Opportunities!
While I expect the early top three decks to play a role in the meta for the entire month of September, that does not mean that other decks are hopeless. Quite the contrary! I have played many archetypes over the past two days, and while some have failed, I have also had a great time with multiple decks. Let’s take a look at some of the less-established competitors.
Face Hunter is never completely out of the competition. The early builds focused on Undertaker, and that may still be the right path, especially given how well it works with Ball of Spiders. However, there are also other approaches, like this deck that Mariana played to #1 Legend:
This deck makes use of a hilarious new combination: the new Caverns of Time card Trial of the Jormungars will always create copies of Acidmaw and Dreadscale as long as both remain in the deck. They, in turn, will destroy all enemy minions at the end of the turn. Hunting face does not mean you cannot also wipe some boards!
In addition to aggro and control, you can also play combo! Is it a combo if your combo is just one card? Anyway, Anyfin Can Happen when you play some Anyfin Paladin, which honestly feels very strong in the current meta. This deck has a 60% win rate over a sample of 76 games. Yes, the sample is small, but that’s all we’ve got so far. I personally went 4-1 with this when I took it out for a spin:
Enter the Coliseum is a wonderful removal tool, and you also get to play with the good old Equality and Wild Pyromancer combo. Murlocs serve as spot removal and ultimately will return from the dead, twice if needed, to win the game.
In addition to Jade cards, C’Thun cards also got multiple buffs in Caverns of Time. Both Warrior and Druid have C’Thun variants, but here I like the Druid deck more:
The biggest buff is the Taunt on Klaxxi Amber-Weaver. A 4/10 with Taunt just stops aggressive decks. Well, apart from the time a Face Hunter randomly generated a Maexxna against me. And apart from the time when my Amber-Weaver got Dark Bargained by a Discard Warlock. So, it does not always stop aggro, but it does a pretty good job for the mana cost. If you want to jam some C’Thun games, this can be a deck for you!
If you want to play C’Thun in a Warrior deck, this seems to be the best-performing list so far:
Note how the deck uses Grimestreet Informant and Ivory Rook. The Discover effects are strong in this format. I have also seen a similar list that adds Charge to the mix. That’s an interesting way to kill people with Eyestalk of C'thun or when C’Thun’s Battlecry alone just is not enough. Its performance does not seem to differ much from this list though.
While the main Warlock deck in the meta is Discard Warlock, slower Warlock strategies are not useless. There are some Renolocks around, and I also played some Handlock, which seems stronger than Renolock so far. I used Mattatarms’ list:
Handlock is a real player’s deck. You play Giants, copy them, give them Taunt, play right on the edge between living and dying, and ultimately can also burst down opponents with Leeroy Jenkins, Power Overwhelming, and Faceless Manipulator. It is a deck rich in decisions. I expect the archetype to have more room for improvement, but it has been fun to play it again.
But What Does It Cost?
This season of Twist has been the most fun I have had in Hearthstone since Blizzard killed Mercenaries. I guess that’s a reference that does not resonate with too many readers. Anyway, this season of Twist is fun if you used to enjoy Hearthstone the way the game was several years ago.
However, Twist has a huge problem. Many people no longer have their old cards, and most of the decks shown in this article are quite expensive. They also consist of cards that you cannot use in Standard at all. For Wild decks, you at least have some overlap or can even just bring some of the better Standard decks as they are. Not so for Twist Wonders. It is old cards or nothing.
Blizzard announced that Caverns of Time will be used in at least three consecutive Twist seasons. Still, that’s only three months, it is less than a single expansion cycle. I do not think it will entice many people to buy packs. That’s a huge shame because this is a fun format that resets Hearthstone close to its state several years ago but with some modern additions.
If you want to try Twist Wonders with a low investment, here is the best deck I found so far:
I browsed through stats and found a budget version of Discard Warlock. You will have fewer tools to protect your Tiny Knight of Evil on a budget, but because the core functionality of the deck is centered around the Knight and Chamber of Viscidus, you get to experience the main duo that makes the deck what it is.
If you have the cards for it, this season of Twist is absolutely worth checking out!