The Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion has nearly arrived, but before it does, I thought I’d write down my thoughts on what I think the meta will become in the next few weeks.
Druid is a class that has had many identities over the years. Back in Classic, the main focus of Druid was around cheating out large minions with mana-ramping cards such as Wild Growth or Innervate. Then, after all the nerfs before Whispers of the Old Gods came out, Druids began experimenting with token decks such as Egg Druid. These token deck worked great up until Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, when the Jade Golem archetype appeared.
Since then, the meta has been about evenly split between Jade Druid and Token Druid, but now, with the arrival of Knights of the Frozen Throne—honestly, I don’t think anything is going to change. From everything that I’ve seen, it looks like we’re going to be heading for a more control-centric meta, a meta that Jade Druid excels against, thanks to its ability to generate insane value over time.
In addition, a lot of the new cards coming in KotFT fit very well into a Token Druid deck (Crypt Lord, Fatespinner and Strongshell Scavenger seem particularly interesting), which should help the deck survive the coming weeks. The new Druid Hero Card (Malfurion the Pestilent) also seems like it could be good in a Token-style deck, but its 7-mana cost may make it a bit too clunky for some of the more streamlined lists.
On the other hand, the Taunt Druid archetype that Blizzard seems to be pushing is unlikely to work well. Despite the power Hadronox (the new Legendary minion) potentially represents, it’s still just a 9-mana 3/7 when you play it, which is very weak in comparison to what a Jade Druid could drop. In addition, a lot of Druid’s most powerful Taunt minions (such as Ancient of War and Druid of the Claw) don’t actually count as Taunt minions, which severely dampens the card’s potential power.
The Decks We Will See: Jade Druid, Token Druid
The Decks We Won’t See: Taunt Druid
Cards to Watch Out For: Strongshell Scavenger, Crypt Lord
Notes: If Jade Druid becomes too common, it’s possible that other decks will start running Skulking Geist, which will cause Jade Druid to become unplayable.
“If the face goes Taunt, me still go face,” has been the cry of Hunters everywhere ever since Hearthstone launched several years ago. Since then, Blizzard has done everything in its power to push the deck towards a Control archetype, but up until now, nothing they’ve tried has succeeded. With the arrival of Knights of the Frozen Throne, however, it appears that Control Hunter might finally be a thing.
Thanks to cards such as Deathstalker Rexxar and Professor Putricide, Hunter finally has a way to generate value, which is something they’ve always lacked. In addition, they have gained some powerful new board clears (such as the Exploding Bloatbat and Deathstalker Rexxar’s Battlecry), some single-target removal (Toxic Arrow), and even a way to heal (Bloodworm). Will it be enough to push Control Hunter over the edge into the realm of playability? I think it will be.
The Decks We Will See: Control Hunter, Midrange Hunter
The Decks We Won’t See: Face Hunter
Cards to Watch Out For: Deathstalker Rexxar, Professor Putricide, Bloodworm
Notes: Bloodworm is very interesting in this deck, because while it isn’t strictly a Hunter Card, it is a Beast, which means that Hunters could use cards like Houndmaster to transform it into a genuinely powerful way to heal themselves.
In the recent Journey to Un’Goro expansion, Mage was given two new archetypes to play with: Elemental Mage and Quest Mage. Both failed miserably at the time, but now, thanks to Knights of the Frozen Throne, it appears that they might have received a second chance at viability.
The new Mage Hero Card, Frost Lich Jaina, causes all your Elementals to gain Lifesteal. Now, at first, this might sound somewhat underpowered, but you have to remember that Mage is a class without any natural way to heal in the Standard Format. With Frost Lich Jaina, however, suddenly, every Elemental represents a few points of healing, which is something that cannot be overstated.
As for Quest Mage, the vast numbers of new Freeze effects that are being added will buy Mages the time they need to get their Quest complete, at which point they are free to destroy their opponents however they see fit.
As for the other, more common Mage decks (such as Secret Mage and the old Freeze Mage), there’s a good chance that they’ll all survive, as they’re getting a lot of support in the upcoming expansion. Overall, things are really looking up, which means that it should be a great time to be a Mage.
The Decks We Will See: Elemental Mage, Quest Mage, Secret Mage, Freeze Mage.
The Decks We Won’t See: Mech Mage, because it doesn’t exist anymore.
Cards to Watch Out For: Frost Lich Jaina
Notes: Sindragosa (the new Mage Legendary) seems interesting, but it’s unlikely to see a lot of play, as it doesn’t really fit into any of the currently established archetypes.
In the days before Journey to Un’Goro, Paladin was a dumpster-tier class. The handbuff mechanic introduced in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan had utterly failed, and the old Control Paladin archetypes were useless against the dangers of Pirate Warrior. With the arrival of JUG, however, Paladin’s fortunes were completely reversed thanks to the addition of powerful cards such as Sunkeeper Tarim, Spikeridged Steed and Vinecleaver. Now, Paladin is one of the top decks in the game, and this will not change in Knights of the Frozen Throne.
Uther of the Ebon Blade (the new Hero Card for Paladin) is one of—if not the—strongest Hero Card coming to the game, as it makes decks such as Control Paladin and Midrange Paladin even harder to kill. Meanwhile, Paladins are receiving a host of new Divine Shield minions (including Bolvar, Fireblood, the new Legendary), which should make their ability to control a board even stronger than before.
As for Aggro Paladin, there are a lot of people who believe that these decks are going to become even stronger. I would heartily disagree, however, as I think the meta is going to become such that Aggressive Paladins have trouble maintaining a board. Without the reach that decks such as Pirate Hunter or Face Shaman have, Paladins won’t be able to close out games, and they’ll lose a lot more games than they win.
The Decks We Will See: Control Paladin, Divine Shield Paladin
The Decks We Won’t See: Aggro Paladin, Murloc Paladin
Cards to Watch Out For: Uther of the Ebon Blade, Blackguard
Notes: A lot of people don’t think Bolvar, Fireblood will amount to anything, but I don’t think it can be written off quite yet, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it ends up being one of the best cards in Paladin.
While Priests are supposed to be associated with healing, they have always had a knack for stealing their opponents’ cards, a skill that has been turned up to 11 in Knights of the Frozen Throne. With cards such as Devour Mind, Embrace Darkness and Archbisop Benedictus, Priests are able to rob their opponents of more cards than ever before.
At first glance, this might not seem like a good thing, but then you have to remember the power level of the cards we’re going to be looking at. Knights of the Frozen Throne is bringing a large number incredibly strong cards (including the Hero Cards) to the table, all of which Priests would be glad to get their hands on. As a result, a lot of these theft cards (especially Devour Mind) seem like they might actually make a pretty large difference in the meta to come.
In addition, the new Priest Hero Card, Shadowreaper Anduin, is exactly what the Shadow Priest decks have always been looking for. Providing a way to control the board that was previously difficult to obtain in Shadow Priest, this card could make the low-tier deck actually viable.
The Decks We Will See: Control Priest, Steal Priest, Shadow Priest
The Decks We Won’t See: Dragon Priest
Cards to Watch Out For: Shadowreaper Anduin, Devour Mind
Notes: A lot of people are predicting that Priest will be the best class in the upcoming, and honestly, I think they might be right.
For the past several expansions, Rogue has been suffering a bit of an identity crisis. Unlike most of the other classes, Rogue hasn’t had a solidifying theme in years, and while Quest Rogue was a decent deck, it sprang out of a single Rogue card from Un’Goro, and only used one or two others. In Knights of the Frozen Throne, this unfortunate trend appears to have been stopped, as Rogues got a lot of cards dealing with weapons.
With the Shadowblade (a new weapon), Leeching Poison (a weapon modifier) Doomerang (a Spell that uses your equipped weapon to take out minions) and even more, it appears that Rogue is heavily invested in a weapon archetype…which is unfortunate, because weapon decks have never worked out well.
As long as cards such as the Acidic Swamp Ooze exist, weapons are going to get destroyed, no matter how much you buff them. As a result, a weapon-based Rogue deck is simply too difficult to make much use of, so many of these cards will likely be pointless.
That doesn’t mean that Rogue is completely useless, however, as they got some very powerful cards in the form of their Hero Card (Valeera the Hollow) and their Legendary Minion (Lilian Voss). Both cards work very well in a Spell-centric Miracle deck, which could turn out to be very good in the upcoming meta. As a result, Rogue shouldn’t be written off quite yet, though I wouldn’t advise putting too much faith in them in the first few weeks.
The Decks We Will See: Miracle Rogue
The Decks We Won’t See: Weapon Rogue
Cards to Watch Out For: Valeera the Hollow, Lilian Voss
Notes: The cards from Un’Goro that generate the 1-mana Razorleaf Spells synergize very well with Lilian Voss, as they provide lots of Spells for her to transform.
Shamans are well known as the masters of the Elements, and so in Journey to Un’Goro, they got lots of Elementals. Unfortunately, the Elemental Tribe turned out to be useless, so Shaman was kind of out of luck. Learning from their mistakes, the Hearthstone Team completely abandoned the Elemental Tribe for Knights of the Frozen Throne, and instead focused around Freeze Effects.
From minions that freeze others (like the Brrrloc and the Voodoo Hexxer) to spells that freeze minions and buff them (Cryostasis) to minions that add frozen minions to your hand (Moorabi), Shaman is getting a lot of Freeze effects. Despite all these new cards, however, one question still remains: is Freeze Shaman good? Honestly, I have to say no.
In-and-of-itself, the deck isn’t bad, but there are way too many cards that have a very weak statline to compensate for their ability to Freeze. This just isn’t good enough (generally speaking), and when the deck’s new Legendary minion is a 6-mana 4/4, you know you’re in trouble.
On the other hand, the new Hero Card (Thrall, Deathseer) actually looks pretty good, and it will likely be a staple in many of the Evolve Shaman decks (which are actually quite prevalent). As a result, Shaman isn’t completely dead yet—but they didn’t do too well in this set either.
The Decks We Will See: Evolve Shaman
The Decks We Won’t See: Freeze Shaman, Evolution Shaman
Cards to Watch Out For: Thrall, Deathseer
Notes: In addition to Thrall, Deathseer, Evolve Shaman got several new cards that support the archetype, such as the Saronite Chain Gang, a pair of 4-mana 2/3 Taunts that turn into 6-mana minions when Thrall, Deathseer Evolves them.
For the longest time, Warlock was king. If it wasn’t Handlock destroying enemy boards, it was Zoolock flooding them or Renolock healing out of their range. Things were good for Gul’dan—but then, the Year of the Mammoth arrived. Many of Warlock’s best cards rotated out, and in exchange, they got the Discard mechanic…which is absolutely terrible.
The Legendary minion and Quest from Un’Goro were both unplayable during the Journey to Un’Goro meta. With the arrival of Knights of the Frozen Throne, however, the time has come to see if Discard will actually be a viable strategy. To be honest, I highly doubt it, but time will tell.
In the meantime, Warlocks actually got a very good Hero Card. Bloodreaver Gul’dan (which resummons all the Demons that died this game) is a very strong card for rebuilding a fallen board state, and it also has a lot of tools dedicated to keeping the Warlock alive. In addition, Warlocks got one of the most powerful AOE spells in the game (Defile), which means that Gul’dan might actually regain a semblance of his former power in the upcoming patch.
The Decks We Will See: Control Warlock
The Decks We Won’t See: Discard Warlock
Cards to Watch Out For: Bloodreaver Gul’dan
Notes: The Despicable Dreadlord is also a very strong new card, and since it’s a Demon, it synergizes well with the new Hero Card.
“Aaargh, I’m in charge now,” is the cry of the Pirate Warrior, as they send Patches the Pirate in to claim yet another victory. Ever since the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, Pirate Warriors have been dominating the meta—but now, in the frozen wastes of Northrend, things might finally turn around.
In Knights of the Frozen Throne, Warrior didn’t get a single aggressive card. Instead, they got lots of cards relating to damaging their own minions, including their Legendary, Rotface. Even their Hero Card, Scourgelord Garrosh synergizes very well in an Enrage Warrior deck like this, as his hero power deals one damage to all minions. As a result, Enrage Warrior might finally be a deck worth exploring.
In addition, it appears that the old Control Warrior may be making a return, thanks to cards such as Dead Man’s Hand, which provides Warrior with a lot more resources than they’d normally have access to. Overall, however, it’s hard to say for sure, so it will most likely be some time until Control Warrior’s place in the meta is fully realized.
The Decks We Will See: Enrage Warrior, Control Warrior
The Decks We Won’t See: Pirate Warrior (Hopefully!)
Cards to Watch Out For: Scourgelord Garrosh
Notes: Despite the meta being completely against Pirate Warrior, there’s honestly a good chance that it will make a comeback simply because it’s so solid.