Hearthstone’s most recent expansion “Rastakhan’s Rumble” has been out for less than a month, and, mostly due to the recent nerfs to Druid, the meta-game looks more balanced than ever. We all know that the new Standard year only begins in April 2019, but with 2018 closing in, it is most definitely time to take a quick glimpse at the future of Hearthstone.
Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, and Kobolds and Catacombs will enter the Wild format with the upcoming rotation, while leaving behind the three most recent expansions, The Witchwood, Boomsday Project and Rastakhan’s Rumble.
In this piece we are going to take a closer look at Warlock and how the rotation will impact the class and its archetypes as a whole.
Warlock’s Lost Cards
Journey to Un’Goro
From a class card perspective, seeing Un’Goro leave will not hurt any Warlock archetypes. In this set Warlock was pushed heavily towards the Discard mechanic, but the Discard Warlock archetype and the Warlock Quest card Lakkari Sacrifice never really took off.
That changes when looking at Un’Goro’s neutral card pool. Starting off with Fire Fly, the most-played 1-drop in the history of Hearthstone, one of the most important cards of Zoo Warlock will leave the scene.
Another huge loss will be the “trio infernale” of 3-drops: First there is Gluttonous Ooze, a staple tech choice that has been carrying almost all Warlock archetypes.
Next is Tar Creeper; another great 3-drop and arguably the Taunt minion with the highest power level in the game. Cube and Control Warlock in particular relied on this elemental to wall up against early aggression.
Last but not least, Stonehill Defender will get out of the jungle. Due to Warlock not having a ton of effective 3-drops in its base kit, everybody’s favorite tortollan not only provided a decent amount of defense, but also filled out the curve and added more flexibility to Warlock’s control archetypes.
A very special card called Elise the Trailblazer shall receive honorable mentions in terms of Warlock usability: Back when Control Warlock reigned supreme, this card single-handedly turned around hour-long fatigue games.
Knights of the Frozen Throne
This is where Warlock starts to hurt.
As it is with every class, Warlock loses its Death Knight Hero card, Bloodreaver Gul'dan. What the community and the pro scene in particular calls the most broken Hero card by far made all control archetypes of Warlock a decent pick both on the ladder and in every tournament of 2018.
Another big hit will be the loss of Defile. The marvelous design of this card is only trumped by its ridiculous power level, and it perfectly showcases the crazy power curve behind last year’s Standard format. The same goes for Despicable Dreadlord: This mid game swing card was the reason why Zoo Warlock was able to keep up high win rates against other aggro archetypes like Odd Paladin.
In the neutral card section, things start off with a banger: Prince Keleseth will be gone for good. He may have been the sole reason why Zoo Warlock was able to make a comeback last year, and not only Warlock will mourn its farewell. Acherus Veteran, Happy Ghoul and Saronite Chain Gang will leave as well, making Zoo and Even Warlock substantially weaker.
And last but not least, The Lich King, the star of this expansion, will make the move to Wild, leaving behind a trail of tears shed by every single control archetype player.
Kobolds and Catacombs
Every single Warlock class card of Kobolds and Catacombs has seen play since the introduction of Kobolds and Catacombs. Every single one of them.
Kobold Librarian and Vulgar Homunculus have been staple inclusions in aggro and mid range archetypes, and Hooked Reaver and Lesser Amethyst Spellstone have helped Even Warlock to climb up the meta tier lists after the release of Witchwood.
And if that already wasn’t enough, Warlock loses tons of valuable neutrals as well. May it be even-cost cards like Plated Beetle or Shroom Brewer, Zoo Warlock staples like Fungal Enchanter and Fungalmancer, or the meta-defining miscreation called Carnivorous Cube:
The losses that Warlock will have to take show that Kobolds and Catacombs has been the most influential and meta-defining set in Hearthstone history.
Warlock’s Upcoming Archetypes
In conclusion, Warlock will lose a ton of cards with the next rotation, maybe even more than any other Hearthstone class.
The upcoming Standard year will shake up the meta like never before, and the first set that is going to be released in April will most certainly not restore the power level we have been used to throughout the last year.
That is why we can already take a good guess at the Warlock cards that will be left after the rotation and the possible archetypes as a result:
Together with Zoo Warlock, the Control Warlock archetype has been one of the most consistent in Hearthstone history.
In fact, multiple cards have been waiting in line to get included into the archetype: Omega Agent, Spirit Bomb or Shriek could be great tools to complement the archetype. And if all things go south, we still have Lord Godfrey to get back that old Defile feeling.
In the past, Zoo Warlock has always been a contender to become an immensely powerful deck after the rotation hits. Its straight-forward playstyle combined with lots of new cheap neutral minions will make Zoo Warlock a solid choice.
In addition to that, Boomsday in particular has treated the archetype well in the form of cards like Soul Infusion or The Soularium. We could also see a lot of new blood in the form of minions like Duskbat and Saronite Taskmaster or the return of Zoo classics like Demonfire or Bane of Doom. Even Demonbolt could make it into the list!
Many players speculate that after the rotation has hit Even and Odd archetypes will rule the meta game.
And while this archetype will lose more cards than any other archetype, it could still make a solid appearance with the new Standard year. However, it still has to hope for powerful even-cost cards while including minions like Doomsayer or Lifedrinker to make up for the card losses.
The Discard mechanic has been in the game since its release, and Team 5 repeatedly tried to push the keyword. Rastakhan added a ton of Discard utility, mainly in the form of High Priestess Jeklik and Soulwarden. These two cards alone combined with minions and spells like Doomguard or The Soularium could create a powerful mid-range Warlock archetype that focuses on effective discarding.