Arena Class Tier List
Welcome to the Hearthstone Arena Class Tier List (LOE) by ADWCTA and Merps. We produce a variety of content for the Hearthstone Arena, including the most consulted Arena Tier List in Hearthstone. We have been playing Arena exclusively since beta, and average 7.2 wins/run on stream, playing all classes evenly. You can find links to our other content through the Grinning Goat. One of the questions we get asked most frequently is:
How are the 9 Arena classes ranked?
After careful consideration, we produced this comprehensive class tier list of where we believe each class is situated in the LOE meta. Although the meta may change over time, the Arena meta is typically more stable than the Constructed format between expansions. We ranked the classes by placing them into tiers; some classes occupy their own tier, and some classes share a tier with other classes. Keep in mind that these rankings are based on their potential in the hands of the best player for that class; rankings for new players and average players would be different. This Class Tier List is meant to measure the ceiling of each class in the hands of a good Arena player.
Current LOE Meta: Mage, Rogue | Paladin || Druid || Warrior, Warlock | Shaman, Hunter | Priest
(Prior TGT Meta: Rogue | Mage, Paladin | Druid || Shaman, Warlock, Hunter | Priest || Warrior)
The one who popped your Hearthstone cherry, your faithful Arena companion during your pauper days. Who were you kidding, it was always going to be Jaina.
Meta (Rank 1): After a brief TGT meta, when Arena players collectively struggled to come to terms with the new Rogue dominance, the old class hierarchy is back with a vengeance in LOE. Ethereal Conjurer pushes the Mage into an even more control and card advantage playstyle, following the trend that’s been shifting this class’s optimal since TGT was released. This may have been a dangerous direction for the Mage if not for the LOE meta quirk that the drop in TGT bonus has shifted the meta back to be slightly faster in LOE, while also making it more difficult to curve out. This combination benefits the Mage, which is vulnerable to early aggression, but can survive mid-game attacks quite well. The Mage is also not all control. The return of old favorites like Fireball and Mana Wyrm means a fair amount of Mage decks can still pack quite an aggressive punch. The very design of such a flexible hero power means that the Mage can at any point in the game push for lethal, gain incremental card advantage, or situationally cause huge tempo swings on the board. There is no downside here, and the flexible hero power ensures that Mage will not be falling out of the top any time soon. Remember, Priest and Warlock aside, the Mage has the highest card advantage hero power, and Hunter aside, also the highest lethal dealing hero power. Further, like the Rogue, you have options, and you are one of the very few classes that plays almost as well without the board as with it. As the game grows, and more and more types of win conditions pop up, this flexibility gets more and more important as you are more frequently put into positions where you must shift your game-plan mid-game to account for your opponent’s strategies. The old days of mana+2 max tempo shifts of Classic are gone, and Mage is better suited than any other classes to this adjustment.
Strength: Answers. The Mage has the largest variety of answers to any situation she may be confronted with. Whether it be small removals, large removals, board clears, pings, or even freezing a weapon, the Mage has answers for everything. With the addition of Ethereal Conjurer, the Mage can now actually actively select the appropriate answer for the task at hand. Your job is to use your answers only as liberally as you have spares, and you should be able to overcome most problematic swing turns your opponent throws at you. More than any other class, you will end up with the removals you need to avoid disastrous turns. Remember, Priest matchup aside, you can always spend multiple turns to ping down a problematic minion, and frozen minions can usually be removed the next turn as easily as this one. Getting good value out of your removals and not getting baited too hard into using them inefficiently is key to the Mage’s success.
Weaknesses: The Mage has no general weaknesses. Playing as the Mage primarily requires responding to your opponent, which is easier than anticipating your opponent’s response, and you can play in a fairly carefree manner. The story is flipped when you’re on the other side. Against a Mage, you don’t have to worry much about her healing (Ice Barrier is not the most commonly seen secret), so aggressive strategies and Hunters do quite well against Mages, but that’s about all you can rely on. The best way to play against a Mage is to limit the effectiveness of her hero power by making trades that leave your minion with one health on turns where the Mage would lose too much tempo to use the hero power (typically, turns 3/5; but other turns as well if you get a read on their hand and lack of certain mana drops), limit the power of Flamestrike by putting out awkward boards if you’re ahead, and generally force the Mage into even value trades while knowing your deck is significantly heavier. If your deck is not significantly heavier, you’ll be better suited pushing the tempo.
X-Factor Common: Flamestrike. The bane of every new player. The effect of this card has the potential to end the game if your opponent does not play around it. With the removal of the TGT bonus, but the lingering popularity of Paladins, Flamestrikes are back in the meta in a big way. Players play into the Flamestrike at their own peril past the first few wins, and the punishment is often swift and brutal. Despite this risk, the tradeoff between playing into a Flamestrike and your % chance to have one in hand sometimes pushes your opponent to play directly into this card so you can reap maximum value. Does he have a Flamestrike: probably the most often asked question in the Arena.
Do you enjoy sharp objects? Do you enjoy hurting yourself with those sharp objects? (Now with extra snakes, because why not!)
Meta (Rank 2): Well, it was fun while it lasted. We have published class rankings since Classic, and Rogue in TGT holds the distinction of being the only class to have ever been ranked above Mage. Rogue reigned less than 3 months in the TGT meta before falling (slightly) with the introduction of LOE. If Mage is the most accessible class, then Rogue is the most precise and demanding class. You generally have double the options of any other class on each turn between hero power setups, combo order, and low-costing spells, but you also have to have a clear sense of your win conditions in each match to be able to, well. . . win. Statistics have consistently shown Rogue to possess the highest win differential between high win players and low win players, because frankly, this class is just difficult to play. Two key changes in the LOE meta has pushed Rogue out of the top spot. First, the plague of Paladins that was the TGT meta has somewhat passed. Rogue typically dominates Paladin in one of the most lopsided matchups (for the powerhouse Paladin anyway) due to the excellent hero power matchup. Second, the removal of the TGT bonus lowers two of the Rogue’s top tempo gaining cards in Buccaneer and Undercity Valiant, while adding only one inferior replacement in Pit Snake (designed for maximum value in late game). This isn’t simply a drop in deck value, but a shift in the overall speed and ability to act off the board. No longer is the Rogue so much faster than its opponent that the speed is unstoppable. That being said, this is still an incredibly dangerous class, capable of undercutting any other deck with low-mana tempo removals and an aggro-control playstyle. Your two common hard removals (and an epic, and Pit Snake) pushes your potential to control the board above even that of Mage. In no case does the opponent ever get a chance to set up a board and/or respond. You are in full control of the game as the Rogue, and you maximize your skill impact and minimize your opponent’s skill impact. Best of both worlds.
Strengths: Speed. One-drops are extra valuable due to the ability to act as combo triggers. Combo effects also mean it is usually a good idea to play 2 2-drops rather than a 4 drop on turn 4, a 2-drop and a 3-drop on turn 5 rather than a 5-drop. Coin gains extra value, and your new class 4-drop Tomb Pillager even gives you an extra coin! Everything is set up for a very fast game. This doesn’t mean you have to start turns 1-3 fast though. Because you are so in control of the game, it is usually better to start slow as the Rogue, play control in the early turns to bait out your opponent’s small easily removable minions so that you can swing the board on turns 4-6. Hero power on turn 2 is a perfectly acceptable play as the Rogue (and no other class). After you establish some form of board presence, be constantly wary of your health and your opponent’s health. Because you are sacrificing a significant chunk of the late game, and your hero power progressively gets more useless as the game wears on, you are on a soft clock to end the game. Unless you have a Sprint in hand, or facing an extremely aggressive deck, you are unlikely to win the late game, so make sure you position yourself within range to make a lethal push at some point before you start running out of cards and options.
Weaknesses: The Rogue has three glaring weaknesses: 1) Self-lethal. To play Rogue effectively, you have to be wary about killing yourself. It takes an excellent judge of your opponent’s reach, and your own vulnerability with heals/taunts to know exactly how much extra tempo you can squeeze out of the Rogue’s hero power before doing so starts being very costly. The evaluation of how much risk you should take in this area will determine 10-15% of outcomes. That’s a lot, for something most other classes rarely have to consider. 2) Board clears. The Rogue flat out doesn’t have any. Dark Iron Skulker is situational, and a rare; Blade Flurry requires a combo; Fan of Knives is only one damage. If we let our opponent get a wide board, we’re almost certainly dead. Lucky for us, we have more tools than any other class to ensure that that never happens. 3) Early turn planning. One truth in Hearthstone Arena is that the more powerful an effect, the clunkier the card. The Rogue has very powerful over-tempoed class cards, but they all have their situational uses. Daggering up on turn 2 could be the difference of a 100% available tempo swing in the early turns, losing the board, and having to come back. Knowing what your opponent is likely to play, how each option affects your position, and your various possible responses is key. While this is true for all classes, most classes don’t have much say in the matter of how to deal with such early threats. The strength of the Rogue is that she has all of the turn 1-3 tools, and a very special coin to deal with anything that comes her way. The flip side of the weakness is that if you don’t work things out well here with a good rhythm, then more often than not, you only have yourself to blame. This is a huge part of the Rogue’s strength, and so its unrealized potential in the hands of most players makes this class not top tier for many players.
X-Factor Common: Sprint. It’s been a year and a half since the game first launched and still no common card changes the shape of a game more than Sprint. It may be a hugely anti-tempo card, but it is the only common card in the game that has more card advantage (and non-situational at that) than North Sea Kraken. This card can singlehandedly disrupt your opponent’s card advantage expectations and solidify your board, or draw you the crucial reach needed to finish off your opponent. Never rely on drawing it to win (unless it’s your only out), but if Sprint is in your hand, your entire gameplan changes. You can be either more control-oriented, or more aggressive depending on the flow of the game. Sprint gives you the edge you need to close out the game either way.
A simple class for a simpler time, when all a guy needed were dudes. . . and fish. And more dudes, and more fish. And more dudes, and more fish. And more dudes, and more fish.
Meta (Rank 3): After exploding to the top in the early days of the TGT meta with the introduction of Murloc Knight, the Paladin has kept itself relevant in the face of a meta seemingly designed to counter the class. In LOE, Keeper of Uldaman keeps the Paladin rolling along by providing it with an uncharacteristic answer to what used to be its biggest weakness: inability to deal with large minions. One of the key reasons for the Paladin’s continued powerhouse status is its straightforward playstyle and high value class cards. A few secrets and the new Keeper of Uldaman aside, the Paladin has represented the meat and potatoes version of the popular Mage. The Paladin has almost no options prior to turn 4, and even after turn 4, a reliable strategy is as simple as: 1) try to get minion to stick on board, 2) buff such minion if possible, 3) profit. That is, if such simple tactics are even necessary with a healthy collection of the most powerful non-conditional class cards in the game. This has always been one of the classes where win rates drop relative to other classes as the player gets better. At a certain level of skill differential between you and your typical opponent, the control provided by Rogue and Mage is preferable to the sheer power of the Paladin, and the value of “win if you have board” type cards diminish in favor of downside prevention. However, in terms of what classes you’ll most frequently see, the easy to use nature of the Paladin ensures that good players will be facing disproportionately well endowed Paladins disproportionately more frequently than any other class.
Strengths: Power. Paladins have the highest powered common and rare cards in the game, and a large number of them! They are mostly concentrated in the 4-mana slot, so you’ll have to wait to unleash the “skill”, but when you do, your opponent will have problems keeping up card for card. It’s a rare Paladin deck that doesn’t end up oversaturated with high power cards, and that’s the biggest strength of the Paladin. The power also comes in a diverse set of cards, from 4-damage weapon, to 3-damage direct damage, to 3/4 damage buffs, 2 damage board clears, and infinite murloc factories. It’s near impossible to play around everything the Paladin can dish out. Add in some frankly unbalanced higher rarity cards like Muster for Battle or Coghammer, and the Paladin can seemingly come out of nowhere on an even board to dominate everywhere.
Weaknesses: The Paladin is by far the most predictable class to play against. This means that much of how you enter into turn 4 is determined by what your opponent has and how much advanced planning they make for your turn 4. Your weakness is that you are rarely in control of the game against good decks and good opponents, and you need to contest the board and win out in the mid-game. On the bright side, you have an easier time doing this than most classes, but if you slip a little bit and lose the board fight, it is very difficult to come back onto the board as a Paladin. Against an opponent who knows what they’re doing, you can often be boxed into inefficient uses of your powerful cards, most of which requires a board to actually get better than average value. While a Fireball or Hex is always good value, Blessing of Kings, Keeper of Uldaman, or Murloc Knight are only situationally above average value. So, the key is to not get yourself into a situation where you’re completely off the board. An even board is fine for the Paladin, behind on the board is death. Tempo!
X-Factor Common: Keeper of Uldaman. This card single-handedly reshaped the way Paladin is played in the Arena. Whereas the Paladin previously had no common way to deal with a large minion, one of the key balances of the class, it now has a highly efficient answer unless the opponent has two large minions on the board (one to be Uldaman-ed, and one to kill the Uldaman and survive). However, the uniqueness of the card in its role in the Paladin deck may sidetrack players too intent on getting that value. Oftentimes (perhaps most times), using Keeper of Uldaman for tempo on your own small minion will create a 2 for none situation where your minion can remove a small opponent’s minion while growing in size, creating tempo swings of a 7 mana card for only 4 mana. The otherwise alien flexibility in the Paladin class fills the need you need it to, and proper evaluation of hold or use will drastically affect your win rate.
Screw you, I’m Player 1.
Meta (Rank 4): The era of the Druid has come and gone. And by that, I mean that the enthusiasm many held when seeing the high value, flexible cards Druid received in TGT was ultimately met with the disappointment that more was needed to push this class to the level of its “1-damage” hero power counterparts. With the removal of the TGT bonus to Living Roots and Druid of the Saber, Druid not only lost much of the gained flexibility, but also slowed down while the rest of the meta picked up. Mounted Raptor and Raven Idol may be worthy additions in terms of value, but they are both anti-tempo when entering the board rather than overtempo-ed the way the Druid TGT cards were. This brings the Druid most of the way back to being a slower mid-ranged class, and reduces its flexibility to beat the competition with speed like the Rogue, with value like the Paladin, or with control like the Mage. Druid has always lacked an identity to set it apart from other classes in a game-changing way and LOE has only cemented this reality. At its core, Druid functions in the Arena like a more stable, more minion-based Mage, the most balanced class, with strong minions, decent reach, and a flexible set of removals. It’s honesty in card value and card tempo prevents it from ever getting too far ahead. Good decision-making will allow the flexibility and consistent curve to guarantee that runs don’t end poorly, the Druid’s very centrist nature limits its upside. While nothing is blatantly overpowered and we generally prefer spells to minions, there’s still plenty to like here. The very fact that we’re making comparisons to Mage and Rogue shows the potential of this class. But, as of LOE, it’s still just not quite there yet. Maybe next expansion?
Strengths: Curve. Druids class card offerings have always made it the easiest class to curve out in a draft, with plenty of high-powered 2-drops and 3-drops. TGT bumped that trait up to ridiculous heights and even added a 1-drop, which gives Druids an inherent drafting advantage in every draft, and LOE kept the tradition with another premium quality 3-mana curve card in Mounted Raptor. By not having to worry much about curve, Druid players can select higher quality of cards overall and generally put together a slightly more powerful set of neutral minions than other classes. While this may sound unimpressive, the consistency provided will average out over time to cause significant positive impact on win rates, making it more difficult to bottom out in a draft, while not necessarily helping your 12-win rate. Consistency may be boring, but who needs the “excitement” of playing with truly non-functional decks?
Weaknesses: Druid’s biggest weakness is that it is the most “honest” class. It gets ahead through board trades, timely use of removals, and clever selection of minion stat distributions. Like Mage, you have all the answers, you just have fewer of them, and they’re generally not as good. This means that it is probably the class with the least potentially to significantly swing the board on a single turn. This meat and potatoes, fundamentals-focused style makes for a great class to use for learning the game, but it also makes for heartbreaking situations where your opponent swings the board and you have no response. The Druid’s lack of flash isn’t just a cosmetic flaw, it also impacts the way the game is played. Flexibility’s cost is power (so the top class cards do not have extra power, just extra flexibility), and therefore players need to squeeze every last drop of value out of flexibility and consistently make the right decisions to compensate for the lack of power. This isn’t the class with the highest skill ceiling by far, but it is probably the class where fundamentals matter the most to your success. For players who are not yet infinite, Druid is the best test of skill level in gameplay. Finally, the hero power’s flexibility to armor up also comes at the cost that it is not limitless advantage like the Mage or Paladin, and the late game oriented meta of TGT really exposes this difference.
X-Factor Common: Innervate. For such a settled class, Druid has one very swingy card that changes the game when it is played. By allowing the Druid to play a larger minion than typically allowed, Innervate forces your opponent to think on their feet and cobble together improvised solutions to uncommonly seen sights. The best part about Innervate is that it is a card that cannot be played around, and depending on how you use Innervate (spells, taunts, hero power), you can have the flexibility to exit the typically confined “honest” space Druid occupies and shatter your opponent’s expectations to keep or take back the board. An early Innervate can end the game, if followed up with a proper curve, but remember, Innervate takes the place of a card, so it is significantly more difficult to curve out with this card in your hand. Knowing the proper time to use Innervate has a huge impact on the game, and it’s not always better when used earlier.
Returning to the Arena with Confidence! #ArenaWarriorsMatter
Meta (Rank 5): By far the biggest impact LOE had on any class is the return of the Warrior to the Arena meta. Never the strongest class, it had been so neglected with below average class cards in three straight expansions leading up to LOE and the focus on hero power in TGT, that Warrior had fallen off the map completely, become less of a class in the Arena, and more of a meme. Fortunately, Blizzard took notice and mounted a heroic effort to bring the class back in just one expansion. The results were better than anyone could foresee. The formula? Release two top tier common class cards for the Warrior that both target one of the the Warrior’s key weaknesses, taking too much face damage to effectively use weapons to mount comebacks, and then giving these two cards a +50% offering bonus, while giving other bad classes little to work with. Fierce Monkey and Obsidian Destroyer are both overstatted for their mana cost, and more importantly, both taunt. With this added layer of protection, the Warrior’s game once again opens up to the flexibility of face damage versus tempo/card advantage that it was known for in classic. These additions were so effective, that Warrior has jumped on this Tier List from by far the worst class, to a mid-tier class, a jump most thought would take at least two more expansions.
Strengths: Flexibility. The Warrior is the most flexible class in the game. Without a relevent hero power, a Warrior is defined entirely by the cards he is offered and drafted. There is no thumb on the scale in any direction. Building on this, the Warrior’s key mechanic, large weapons, are the most flexible cards in the entire game. Weapons can swing for the face almost as effectively as half-costed Fireballs and Pyroblasts, or be used to take out opponent’s minions two for one. In a pinch, they can also be equipped without swinging, acting as on-curve drops. Weapons are so absurdly flexible in the Arena, that the proper use of these cards allows the expert Warrior to pinpoint the opponent’s stylistic weaknesses and exploit them for the win, routinely pulling out victories against far superior valued decks. The more recent focus on Taunt mechanics furthers this theme of flexibility, as properly timed Taunts (like weapons) can be used to allow your minions to go face, or to create bad board states for your opponents to gain tempo and card advantage. Moreso than even the Druid’s “choose one” mechanic, the entire focus of an Arena Warrior is geared toward flexibility to exploit your opponent’s personal or deck structural weaknesses. Unlike classes like the Paladin, Warlock, Priest, or Hunter, the Warrior enters each match without a concrete gameplay, and develops it within each match in reaction to what his opponent is signicaling.
Weaknesses: The Warrior has several weaknesses, all centered around its hero power, the worst in the Arena. First, it needs to curve out. Weapons, even at their best, can only remove one minion per turn, so catching back up on the board honestly (without combos), will always require a board presence. With such a poor hero power, the Warrior cannot use it at any time in the first 6-8 turns without falling significantly behind in ways that are difficult to catch up. That means the Warrior must not only curve on on turns 2-4 like most classes, but that it will also need to curve out far deeper into the game, when other classes can begin using their hero power to smooth our their curve without significant loss. Second, the Warrior’s late game cannot be played card for card against any class besides Hunter, Priest, and Shaman. Your opponent will gain 2-3 cards worth of card advantage at a minimum from his hero power if a protracted top-deck war drags on. So, preparation for the late game involves a sizable lead on the board and in cards, and it is always a good idea to think heavily about hitting face over trading in the late game. The longer the drags on, the more you lose.
X-Factor Common: Arathi Weaponsmith. While some may prefer the simplicity of a Fiery War Axe, the Arathi Weaponsmith shines brighter for the current iteration of the Warrior. The two extra damage on turn 4 is sufficient to catch up a board you have lost, and the remainder of the weapon allows the 3/3 body to trade up to a Chillwind Yeti, putting you squarely back on the board. This accomplishes the same thing as a Fiery War Axe on turn 2, but with 2 more turns to draw. More importantly, the Arathi Weaponsmith puts more stuff out onto the board than the Fiery War Axe, and so fares much better in the late game, which, with the introduction of Obsedian Destroyer and Fiery Monkey, the Warrior not infrequently finds itself in. Finally, there are far more 3-mana cards that cannot be removed by a Fiery War Axe now than there used to be in classic (when it earned its reputation as “Fiery Win Axe”), while 6-health 4-mana cards are still exceedingly rare.
Life Lessons from Blizzard: Tapping that is bad for your health, but only a little, and probably still worth it in the big picture.
Meta (Rank 6): It looked so good for the Warlock at the outset of LOE. TGT’s numerous bad Warlock cards were losing their offering bonus, while LOE’s new cards featured something the Warlock was heavily missing a curve card, and not just any curve card but one which could amazingly act as a 2-drop or a 3-drop (all while doubling as potential removal in the late game!). The stage was set for a Warlock value takeover. . . that never quite materialized. To understand why, we should start with the engine that the Warlock runs on: the hero power. Unlike other classes, Warlocks can draft small, but play for the long game. With a hero power that is an infinite card advantage engine, the Warlock is less dependent on large cards than any other class. A fast start with 1-drops, a taunt/heal heavy deck, or a removal-heavy deck will all prevent enough face damage to keep you rolling in cards. Since you’ll almost always fit into one of these Warlock deck designs, Warlocks excel against attrition style decks that try to outlast you with value; they simply fail to do so. The TGT meta was historically kind to the attrition style, so LOE’s return to normalcy has hurt the Warlock’s frequency of meeting its best matchup archetype. Further, Warlocks have little use for anti-tempo card draw, so the addition of discover mechanic cards was a huge boost to other classes keeping up with the Warlock and further blow to the Warlock himself, where tempo translates to life, translates to card advantage.
Strengths: Life Tap. The Warlock’s hero power has such a special (and powerful) effect that, more than any other hero power, it completely shapes the draft, and your gameplay. With infinite card advantage, you’ve eliminated one of the key downsides to having “too many” curve cards like 2 and 3-drops, and the major overwhelming downside of having 1-drops. So, the Warlock is free to overload on those minions to get that head start on the board, free to overextend into board clears, and generally be able to recover from anything, as long as they’re facing an empty board and have the health to back it up. Having a hero power that makes half the minions in the game more powerful is a pretty good deal. But beware, even with the hero power, not having a mid-range curve and going super aggro won’t make up for the loss of card advantage. On turn 10 with two 2-drops, you’re still putting out less than half the power of an opponent that plays a 4-drop and a 6-drop. So, this class’s strength lies in lower-mid range curve and not extreme aggro. Beware of the Warlock drafting trap of taking too many high-mana cards. Warlocks may be offered plenty of large demons (more large minions than any other class), but taking too many without Voidcallers to back them up works against your hero power and is rarely a good idea. One further extra subtle effect of the hero power is that it allows you to more easily draw your key cards, so it offsets the need for situational removals and utility cards in the deck in favor of minions.
Weaknesses: The Warlock has few removals (fewest in the game besides Priest) and almost no control over how the game goes in the early going. If your opponent can properly curve out and match you step for step, then you will almost inevitably lose the board as you have few ways to gain extra tempo (while your opponent almost certainly has several ways). The hero power is not helpful without the board, as it puts your life even more in danger, and the 2-mana cost will set your tempo back even further. So, while staying ahead on the board is more important for Warlock than any other class (except maybe Priest), it’s also a tall order. There’s no trick here to overcoming the weakness, just be sure to prioritize early tempo over everything else, and hope for the best. Remember when drafting, that Dark Peddler can be used as either a 2-drop or a 3-drop. Further, “win-more” cards may not be a bad idea because unless you have a few very specific cards, you are not coming back onto the board after you lose it until your opponent runs out of cards. Finally, prioritize buffs, because if you’re in the game at all, then you’ll have things to buff so they are needed to fill the removal void.
X-Factor Common: Hellfire. The one exception in the “coming back onto the board” game for Warlock is Hellfire. This is not a highly rated card because its situational-ness is very high as you (hopefully) will typically start the game with the board. But, the nature of removing small things on the board generally leaves your opponent with several sizable attack minions at around 3 health or lower, so this card is one of the few ways to come back onto the board. The fact that almost nobody plays around it makes it even more effective those times when you need it. At only 4 mana, this card will also let you set up your own board on the same turn, which you can then buff for the next turn.
Before he sold out, RNGesus went by “the Elements” and held a day job crafting totems.
Meta (Rank 7): It’s an odd spot to be in for the Shaman, a class that keeps getting worse despite getting very good cards added to the pool every expansion. TGT provided a huge boost to totem synergy, with Totem Golem, Tuskarr Totemic, and Thunder Bluff Valient, more than enough to offset the dilution of Flametongue Totem’s offering rate. Then, LOE added another pair of acceptably decent cards in Tunnel Trogg and Rumbling Elemental. However, the power and diversity of Shaman class cards do not quite compensate for the awkward curve issues this class suffers from due to overload. Ultimately, neither its early tempo nor late card advantage is strong enough to carry the class by itself, and it ends up being an odd mix of the Druid and the Mage, without the crucial ability to hero power ping. If the Druid is a flexible neutral class with no special identity, then the Shaman is suffering from an identity crisis. It has all of the tools to break open the game with every win condition in the book, but it has few tools to set up those win conditions. It’s not so much flexible as it is disjointed.
Strengths: Swing. Historically, one of the trademark Shaman abilities was to overload his mana, and swing the tempo incredibly hard in the most flexible way imaginable. With a mix of cards that overload for extra tempo, flat out over-tempoed cards like Fire Elemental and Hex, and cards that feed off of overloads, incredible things can happen. You are never safe facing a Shaman. In BRM and TGT, Shaman’s suite of game-swinging overload removal spells has become diluted, but replaced by equally powerful overload minions. Now, the swing effect is the same, just more balanced between removals and minions. The payment on the next turn is typically mitigated by the board presence and the complete disruption of the opponent’s gameplan. In addition to this board swing, Shaman also has the largest single turn reach to deal lethal, with windfury effects and Bloodlust. The strengths of this class are in blowing expectations out of the water, and effectively winning the game on one turn from an even board, or even from behind on the board.
Weaknesses: RNG is never a good thing for good players. Shaman unfortunately depends very heavily on RNG, and reacting to its own RNG for hero power totems (on top of Tuskarr Totemic and Crackle) is one of the necessary skills to being a good Shaman player. But, even beyond the RNG nature of the hero power, Shaman has an additional difficulty of actually getting value out of any totems at all. A 0/2 that gets buffed is a significant card advantage, but one that does not is generally not much better than saving some health. Being able to use your hero power effectively while recovering from “misses” and setting up the board state necessary for your hero power to be useful is what defines an effective Shaman player.
X-Factor Common: Flametongue Totem. Aka: the original Murloc Knight. Where Flametongue lacks in body size, it more than makes up for in its instant board effect buff, and its stable output of damage. For 2 mana, 2 more mana for a hero power, and typically playing one more card, you can almost certainly go from fighting for the board, to a full clear and establish dominance in one vital swing turn. The Flametongue setup is typically unavoidable by the opponent, unless they are very far ahead on the board. Once played, even if a removal is used the next turn by your opponent, Flametongue would have already gotten 2 cards worth of value. Even more impressive, is that a proper setup allows for infinite card advantage with totems for the rest of the game. While we have two more totem activators now in Thunder Bluff Valiant and Mukla’s Champion that do similar things, Flametongue is still the most flexible of the bunch and the easiest to pull off. Together, these cards, if available, define a large part of your win conditions as Shaman.
Calls randomly a boar, a bear or a wyvern because they’re totally the same thing. . . when it comes to the companionship.
Meta (Rank 8): This was never going to end well. Never a great class, the Hunter was provided with hands down the worst class cards of LOE. Class hero powers are absolutely game changing in providing card advantage for the late game. Unfortunately for the Hunter, Steady Shot is one of only two hero powers in the game that does not provide any card advantage. This means that the Hunter will have much difficulty trying to outlast another deck designed to be viable in the late game. We can look at the three “fast” classes and how their hero power helps them add a win condition: Rogue = tempo, Warlock = cards, Hunter = lethal. Their ranking also reflects how reliable each of those elements are in this meta. In the LOE meta, direct damage without a good way to set up the board is just not a very good win condition. Taunts and heals as a whole have gotten more popular in the meta since TGT, and ignoring the board to go face can be punished by even more engine/inspire cards. If a Hunter manages to bust out an early game lead, or a mid-game swing, then victory is a foregone conclusion. But, they simply do not have the tools to draft and play that style successfully on a consistent basis. So, more often than not, Hunters trade the entire late game for an extra push in the mid-game for lethal. It’s not the best tradeoff.
Strengths: Lethal. The Hunter does not have access to the best cards in the game, but the hero power is very good at doing one very specific thing: finishing your opponent off. The Hunter can erase a cushion of 20 health to nothing with one turn of sending minions to the face and some hero power usage. For opponents that look to stabilize the board and win on card advantage, this is a nightmare if they do not have healing. Oftentimes, this results in a game of rock, paper, scissors, which is not a favorable gamble for high skilled players, but it does provide an alternate win condition no matter how poorly the game itself is going. The Hunter just needs one good turn to end the game. The best way to play Hunter is not to go face with everything always, but rather to set up a board and have enough damage to attack in (rather than continue trading), while dropping additional minions. This forces your opponent to backpedal and clear more minions on the board than they have attack for, which usually means you will end up dealing more face damage over the course of the next few turns, which along with your hero power and any reach, should end the game. Like the Warlock, the hero power is so unique that opponents are not used to playing with it in mind, so their inexperience and need to adjust their gameplay will cause many misplays and losses that would otherwise be wins.
Weaknesses: The Hunter falls into the same trap as the Warlock in that it needs to set up a board, but has no special tools with which to do so. In the expansions since Classic, Hunter has gotten Glaivezooka, which helps a bit, but generally it is still one of the weaker classes at holding an early board. Getting to the point where you can have that “one good turn” is a lot harder than it may sound. Without the card draw of the Warlock, going the 1-drop route in drafting puts you on a very short clock to find your turning point turn. On the other hand, going the mid-range route pits you against competition that typically has superior class cards and a more flexible hero power for curving out and value in the mid/late game. Luckily, you don’t need to win the board, just hang on long enough to find your opening to go face. Timing this moment is the most difficult decision to make as a Hunter, and when you find your moment, you need to go all-in. Face is an all or nothing proposition (0 life left, or some life left), hedging your bets should only be considered when it would allow for even more face damage the next turn.
X-Factor Common: Unleash the Hounds. By itself, this card is an efficient board clear for any wide board setup. But where it really shines is when combo-ed with one of any number of cards (Hunter’s Mark, Animal Companion, Dire Wolf Alpha, Cult Master, Houndmaster, Deadly Shot) to achieve a ridiculous swing on the board. These combos give the Hunter an extra dimension and having the combos means that you can play “combo” style Hunter, which is similar to control style, or just save the cards as backup or to deal lethal in a more aggressive style. Either way, this puts your opponent in a tough spot where they want to spread on the board to have enough attacks to hit all of your minions, but in spreading, they make themselves vulnerable to a massive swing that will likely end the game in your favor.
The cruelest man in Hearthstone. He COULD heal you, but he probably won’t.
Meta (Rank 9): Well, someone had to be here. After a TGT meta where the Warrior was entirely out of the meta, “someone had to be here” is a refreshing take on the worst class in the Arena meta. Priest is bad, but it’s not all that much worse than the other bad classes. And, before the #ArenaPriestsMatter movement gets underway, we should recognize that LOE actually provided the Priest with plenty of goodies, from another hard removal, to a board clear, to a high value card advantage card. The problem is that all of these cards cost more mana in tempo than their counterparts in other classes, and the Priest struggle was never card advantage, but rather gaining the board in the first place, something the LOE cards, valuable though they may be, do not do. This is the same problem as giving Warlock all those good large minions. It works counter to the hero power. So, Priest remains a completely binary class. If you have the board, you win, and if you don’t have the board, you lose. It shares the board-centric downsides of the Paladin, but to an insane (even determinative) degree. More importantly, TGT and LOE cards further diluted the few ways Priest had of getting on the board (Velen’s Chosen, Northshire Cleric, Power Word: Shield, Shrinkmeister). With that drop in consistency, Priest has actually gotten progressively worse. Further, since TGT’s infinite card advantage inspire cards and North Sea Krakens were added to the meta, even if Priest holds on to the late game, there is no guarantee that they’ll actually have the card advantage necessary to finish the game. One small silver lining is that LOE has made it more difficult for all classes to curve out properly compared to previous metas. Your opponent not curving out is one of the rare and decisive ways a Priest can establish a foothold on the board. Basically, missing your 2-drop against a Priest is more punishing than doing so against any other class. But overall, this is not a good time to be a Priest.
Strengths: Board Protection. Much like the two classes on the list before this, Priests only do one thing well. Priests make sure anything that stays alive on their board for one turn, stays alive pretty much the entire game. There are four highly rated common buff cards that accomplish this along with the healing hero power, providing twice the card advantage and tempo as the Standard Mage/Paladin hero power base. This means that you should always expect the Priest to be able to buff/heal their minions on the next turn if it stays alive, so that that minion will continue to haunt you for the next several turns, if not the rest of the game. As the Priest, this slow process of sticking things on the board will eventually win you the board and provide infinite card advantage on the board as the game progresses, making this the most powerful late game class. . . assuming you can get something sizable to stick on the board at all.
Weaknesses: The flip side of all of this amazingness when on the board, is that the Priest is mostly useless when not on the board. They have the fewest removals in the entire game, and the removals can be avoided by keeping minions with 4 attack above 2 health. This makes the Priest hero power completely worthless and prevents the Priest from having any initiative to take back the board. Fittingly, the Priest’s best and only strategy is typically to continuously drop high health minion(s) on the board and pray they do not get removed. Priest is by far the most useless class without the board, and by the very nature of the game (and their lack of early board control tools) and RNG, they will oftentimes start in this position. These guaranteed loss games hurt more and more the higher your average win percentage.
X-Factor Common: Velen’s Chosen. The introduction of this card in GvG single handedly catapulted the Priest from extremely bad to decent (now back to bad again due to dilution of the card pool). It’s not that the Priest does not have access to an array of buffs, but rather that Priests never had a way to buff the attack of a minion before. This card combines the thing Priests always want to do (keep a minion alive) with a very high 4 health, with something Priests struggle doing in the first place (raising a minion’s attack). The ensuing chain heals to an early Velen’s Chosen can typically hold the board for good for the Priest. There’s no way to play around this card and like most Priest cards, it is not difficult to use. But, the impact is immense, and if given a target, whether the Priest has this card in hand will likely determine the game. Side note: This card does not have any more stats/value than it is supposed to for its mana cost, and by that measure, is the highest impact “properly statted” card in the entire game. Unlike the new LOE cards, Velen’s Chosen fits the Arena Priests’ game plan just a little too well.