Typically in Wild, new expansions are relatively less disruptive to the format than in Standard. The deeper card pool means that each set of new cards has more competition available in an eternal format such as Wild. This means that, as Hearthstone continues to expand, each new set is a smaller drop in the ocean of cards that is Wild, with each expansion creating a smaller and smaller ripple.
This was certainly not the case of the previous two expansions. The Witchwood introduced the Even and Odd decks that now dominate Wild while a single card from The Boomsday Project in Juicy Psychmelon, single-handedly upended the Wild format.
Is it possible that Rastakhan’s Rumble will continue this trend? Or will it have a more measured effect on the Wild metagame? Let’s take a look!
As with every new expansion, Rastakhan’s Rumble brings new mechanics to play with in Hearthstone. Some of these seem more powerful than others but, at least early on, I’m looking forward to the breath of fresh air these mechanics may bring to Wild Hearthstone.
Above and Beyond
Compared to Druid and Warrior, Control Paladin has always been at a disadvantage because, while they can heal efficiently, capping out at 30 HP is a significant limiter compared to the ridiculous armor gain possible in other classes. Now, with the new Legendary High Priest Thekal, Paladin has the opportunity to gain huge armor spikes that it can heal behind to go well above 30 HP and even the playing field with other Control decks.
Likewise, this enables healing earlier in the game and avoids dead turns with heal spells in hand. I’m not sure this alone will be enough for a Control Paladin to be viable but, paired with some of the other tools included in this set, there may yet be hope!
Overkill: Dead on Arrival?
Overkill, while interesting in the decisions it forces, many of the cards with this new mechanic seem, at first glance, too slow for the Wild metagame.
One of the most anticipated Overkill, Oondasta, certainly pairs well with Kathrena Winterwisp, but most Secret Hunters and Deathrattle Hunters prefer to cut out the top end in favor of a more explosive start. In Druid, as ridiculous as it may seem, cheating out a big Beast with Oondasta feels too fair as a 9-mana turn compared to what other decks are capable of.
Just as with Oondasta, many of the other Overkill cards appear to be too slow to make an impact.
Discard Done Right
It seems that Team 5 has heard the frustrations of many players looking to make Discard Warlock work. Nothing was more infuriating than randomly losing a card in hand, especially something critical like Bloodreaver Gul'dan. New cards introduced correct this by only Discarding the lowest cost card in your hand. This more controlled Discard dramatically increases the mechanic’s consistency. In doing so, players can more reliably buff a Clutchmother Zavas, get a free Silverware Golem, or duplicate a High Priestess Jeklik. It’s still unlikely that Discard Warlocks will be dominant in Wild, but this is a welcome step in the right direction for the mechanic.
A Touch of Nostalgia
In addition to some exciting, new mechanics, Rastakhan’s Rumble has reintroduced some old favorites that are bound to be relevant in the Wild format.
Bring Out Ya Dead, Mon!
Somewhat reminiscent of the beloved N'Zoth, The Corruptor, Da Undatakah rewards players for running high-value Deathrattle minions. This new Neutral Legendary may find a home in several Wild Hearthstone decks given the powerful Deathrattles available in the format along with the obvious synergy with the aforementioned Old God. The new Troll has the potential to slide into a Control Paladin build or create infinite value with Malorne or Astral Tiger in Druid.
The Number One Contender
Mad Scientist is easily one of the most powerful cards in Hearthstone history. The ability to play a minion which pulls a Secret from your deck and places it directly into play continues to see play in Secret-based decks to this day.
Masked Contender has a very similar, albeit conditional, effect attached to a Battlecry. The immediate impact on the board state arguably makes it better than Mad Scientist, so long as you can ensure a Secret is in play. Fortunately, with Ice Block in Mage and the natural curve of Hunter Secrets into Contender, I think the effect will be relatively easy to activate for the decks that want to include this new 3-mana minion. In my eyes, it’s pretty clear that Masked Contender will have an impact in the Wild format.
Whoa, Pause the Game
Earlier this year, Ice Block was deemed too powerful a card to remain in Standard and was relegated to Wild via the Hall of Fame. This expansion, Paladin will receive nearly the same effect, but with a slight advantage. The ability to play Time Out! on your own turn offers the opportunity to swing into a minion with a weapon without taking damage.
This card may make combo finishers, such as Exodia or Anyfin Can Happen, more consistent in a highly aggressive format. The former can pair Time Out! with Emperor Thaurissan for a free turn going into the combo while the latter can use the card to survive until 10 mana is available for the finish. I’m not sure that these decks will be top tier after the expansion, but if they are, Time Out! will play a vital role.
Pirates, Pirates Everywhere…
In a format already flooded with Pirates, Team 5 has to tread lightly for fear of returning to the days when Small-Time Buccaneer and Patches the Pirate reigned supreme. Not only has the Wild format seen a resurgence of Pirate Warrior lately, but Odd Rogue, which runs a full crew of Pirates, has consistently placed near the top of nearly every Wild Tier list since The Witchwood.
When it was announced that Gral’s Sharks would provide Rogue with a Pirate theme this expansion, many (myself included) feared this would provide some unneeded support for Odd Rogue, an already potent archetype. Instead, the Hearthstone team managed to include interesting new Pirates, both Neutral and Rogue, without appearing to noticeably buff one of the format’s premiere decks. Hopefully, this helps quiet many of the claims that Blizzard ignores Wild balance.
Instead of shoving odd-costed Pirates into an existing (and dominant) deck, we’re left with interesting decisions about how to proceed with these new swashbucklers. Does Sharkfin Fan warrant a spot in Pirate Warrior? If so, builds may need to shift towards a heavier emphasis on early-game weapons. Could Even Pirate Rogue be a possible alternative to Odd Rogue? How about a straight Aggro Pirate Rogue with even AND odd cost cards? I think there’s some real potential in the latter, especially.
Regardless, it’s exciting to see Rastakhan’s Rumble include a nostalgic tribe while giving players an opportunity to explore new archetypes.
A New Hero Approaches
Continuing the trend of introducing one hero card each expansion after Knights of the Frozen Throne, Rastakhan’s Rumble brings a new 10-mana hero in Zul'jin. This beloved Warcraft character was much anticipated and, at least his Battlecry did not disappoint. Reminiscent of Yogg-Saron, Hope's End, Zul’jin provides massive value when he comes into play.
Secret Hunter and Spell Hunter, each of which got a slight boost this expansion, are two of the more popular Hunter archetypes in Wild. Given the type of Spells these decks run, predominantly centered around those that have no target such as Secrets, Animal Companion, and Lesser Emerald Spellstone, it would not be surprising for both of these decks to include the new Troll Hero. Granted, the Hero Power is a bit underwhelming, but still a slight improvement over Steady Shot.
The lone hesitation may be that Zul’jin is in direct competition with Deathstalker Rexxar, but it’s reasonable to consider including both in the same deck: Zul’jin for the Battlecry and Deathstalker Rexxar for the Hero Power.
Since the Star Aligner Druid reign of terror shortly after The Boomsday Project, Wild players have been fearful of combo decks running rampant in the format. Fortunately, Rastakhan’s Rumble offers two new disruption tools to help combat game-ending combos.
In Warlock, Void Contract can devastate opponents with one or more combo pieces remaining in their deck. That said, I don’t think this card will see much, if any, play. Eight mana is a steep cost and essentially passing a late-game turn can be more risk than the payoff is worth. Additionally, Renolock, perhaps the only deck that would consider Void Contract, can already burn as many as eight cards in an opponent’s deck using Brann Bronzebeard, Gnomeferatu, and Zola the Gorgon.
More realistically, Mojomaster Zihi provides powerful disruption for aggressive decks. Nearly every combo in Hearthstone requires full mana crystals and Zihi gives players the opportunity to block the opponent’s access to 10-mana. Better still, this disruption prevents many of the powerful board clears present in the format, giving aggressive and midrange deck the ability to stay on board longer.
The Diamond in the Rough
Each expansion, a powerful card slips through the cracks during the card reveal season only to emerge as one of the strongest cards from the expansion. This in Wild just as much as Standard. Most commonly Neutral minions, past examples include Bonemare, Corridor Creeper, and even the once omnipresent Dr. Boom.
Is it possible that there is a meta breaker once again hiding somewhere is the post-stream card dump? It’s certainly possible!
For highly aggressive decks, such as Pirate Warrior, Shieldbreaker essentially functions as an unnerfed Ironbeak Owl. This can make running Silence feel a bit less bad, though the even mana cost is relevant since it can’t find its way into Odd Rogue. Additionally, at the moment at least, Silence is less valuable in Wild than it once was.
It’s entirely possible I’m overlooking something extremely powerful that flew under the radar, but these cards definitely have some promise!
Regardless of how things look after the post-expansion hype settles, I’m looking forward to the upcoming set. New cards are always exciting, but the inclusion of new mechanics and the glorious flavor of Rastakhan’s Rumble has me more hyped than usual!
What new Wild decks or cards are you most excited about? Share your thoughts in the comments below!