August 3, 2017
Table of Contents
Joseph Reviews: Knights of the Frozen Throne (Part 3)
Another week, another spoiler(s). We are getting close to seeing the whole set, and things are continuing to get spicy. Some classes seem to be on the up and up, while others are slowly sinking. Of course, it is impossible to know how things are going to shake out once everything drops, but there has been a lot of good so far. Even more importantly, there has also been a lot of interesting. It seems Blizzard’s card design continues to evolve with each set, and that truly is a great sign for Knights as well as the future. In this article I’ll be breaking down the cards we’ve seen so far this week. While I don’t have the space to cover each one, I’ll be looking at some of my favorites and discussing how they may change the meta.
Oh, yeahhhh. This time we start things off on a high note. I find that often times during a set release people tend to get caught up with the wrong things. They love the legendaries, the giant spells, and the big cards with crazy effects. However, those are never the cards that truly change the game. What changes the game is the cheap, efficient stuff that, while a bit boring, helps decks start out strong and build into their curve. Righteous Defender is one of those cards. Is it just an Argent Squire with taunt? Sure. But, as we have seen so many times in the past, taunt and divine shield is one of the best combinations in the game. That gets even more true when they come together on a cheap minion.
What I love about Righteous Defender is that it is a strong, multi-faceted tool that could help multiple Paladin archetypes. A 1/1 divine shield/taunt is amazing at holding down the early board. Imagine you’re playing a slower deck. By running this out against things like Murloc Tidecaller, Southsea Deckhand, Swashburglar and Alleycat you instantly slows the game down by trading and soaking up hits. It even forces decks like Aggro Druid and Token Shaman to tie up their mana. In addition, it is also a fantastic aggressive card. Turn one tidecaller/defender instantly protects your murloc and helps you push through into turn two. The 1/1 may not seem strong at first glance, but it is a nightmare to get through and I expect it to be a Paladin staple in the coming months.
Though Shadow Ascendant is not the most thrilling card in the set, I wanted to discuss it because it impacts Priest in a very interesting way. This card is just a 2/2 for two. However, it is a 2/2 for two that also gives you a reoccurring, on-curve buff. As such, I think this could be a very important part to Tempo Priest. I am not saying that Tempo Priest currently exists, and I am not saying it will exist, but it is small value cards like ascendant that make such a deck come to light. Not only does this instantly turn your Northshire Cleric into a 2/4, but you can also make into a 2/3 or Crystalline Oracle into a 2/2. That then allows you to trade up and gives you a threat that needs to be immediately dealt with. Those type of board states are exactly what a tempo deck wants. Not only that, but you can also do crazy things like coin out a Radiant Elemental and play a turn two ascendant to get a 3/4 with spell discount. Similar to Control Hunter, I am not sure if the deck has enough supporting pieces. However, there is a lot of value to be had with Priest’s early game, and I would not count this card out.
Iiiiccceee fiiiishing, deserves a quiet niiight (cue the R.E.M music). I believe that Ice Fishing falls into the same category as Righteous Defender. That is to say, it is a cheap, simple card that is easy to over look but has a ton of potential. Ignoring the murloc tags, this card says “draw two cards for two mana.” That is absolutely unreal. Now, you may say that you have to draw two murlocs with it, and while that can be taken as a major setback, I would argue that could actually be a buff. Not only do you get cheap card draw, but you get cheap targeted card draw that helps you play a specific package in your deck. Instead of just randomly digging through your cards hoping to get something, you know what’s coming, and that helps you plan ahead.
Now, I do not think Ice Fishing is going to make Quest Shaman work. Losing turn one and a card is simply too much of a setback for any aggressive deck to handle. However, I think it could be a solid addition to midrange. The water package has proven to be strong enough for several decks, and Thrall may adopt it now that he has a way to go through his deck and pull the murlocs whenever he wants. Current Shaman decks are based around making tokens, but it doesn’t take too much to swap in four or five murlocs. Ice Fishing is a tutor and, like so many other tutors, it is going to be strong. It also makes it so you don’t have to worry about bad topdecks later on. A big plus all around.
Why is it so cold in here? And why does it smell like fish? Brrrloc is a very interesting card that gives you a so-so body with a strong tag and a very powerful ability. Being able to freeze things is always going to be strong because of how important tempo is in this game. With Brrrloc, not only do you get to control the board and put down a body, but you can also use this to set up your future turns and lock your opponent out of their plan. I do not think that Brrrloc will see play right off the bat. However, I do see a world where this card could be a real threat. When looking at cards with tags you need to evaluate them in two different ways. First, you want to see if they fit within their tribe, and then you want to see how they do outside of it. This likely won’t see play in straight murloc decks (mainly because I don’t think they exist) but I think this will eventually be adopted by tempo Shaman lists. It is pretty good for elemental control decks that want to slow down aggro and pace the board, it is powerful in decks that want to push, and it will be a core piece of Freeze Shaman if it ever comes to be. Not the best body, but a card I really like.
Dipping back into the well of ignored cards, I am a big fan of Runeforge Haunter. A 5/3 body for four is pretty bad, but the ability on this thing is pretty darn sweet. If the Haunter had come out just one set ago it wouldn’t have been good. However, Rogues now have access to Shadowblade, which I expect to see a lot of play in the next few months. That means you can now play the 3/2 weapon on turn three, attack in (without losing health I might add), and then play Runeforge Haunter on turn four to get a free attack, and then attack again on turn five. That style of curve may not sound crazy, but weapons have a ton of value these days. Any card that extends their life is at least worth looking at.
The best way to look at Runeforge Haunter is that it gives you a free Upgrade! (minus the attack buff) the turn you play it, and then you get an extra upgrade (minus the attack buff) each turn that it lives. Of course, it is not going to live very long, but that really shouldn’t matter. Even if your opponent does kill it, you already got some value from it and you tied up their mana. The more Rogue cards we see from the new set, the more I like the idea of a aggressively-slanted Tempo Rogue. Not only does the class already have a lot of ways to push through damage, but they are getting a few new tools that are going to help. If such a deck ever exists I expect Haunter to be at the center of it.
Before we dive deep into Corpse Widow, I must pose a question. Would the spider see play if it did not have it’s ability? The answer is no. No, it would not. A 4/6 beast for five is not bad, but Nesting Roc is a 4/7 beast for five that also sometimes has taunt. You then also have access to Tundra Rhino (which wins you the game if left unanswered) as well as tech cards like Stampeding Kodo. As a result, the arachnid needs to have quite a bit of power if it is going to see play. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
I will admit that when I first saw Corpse Widow I was really high on it. The ability to discount all of your deathrattle minions on top of a solid, on-curve beast seemed great. However, the more I thought about it, the more disappointed I became. There aren’t all that many strong, midrange deathrattle cards these days. While you could discount Savannah Highmane, you’d be playing the lion on turn six anyway. Having the two extra mana might give you a free hero power, but that is rarely going to make a difference. As such, this card seems to have a strong ability that doesn’t have any real use. Sure, there may be some situations where you can get a ton of value from it, but overall it just seems like another Hunter five drop that won’t see the light of day.
While I am not the biggest Control Warlock player in the world, I can definitely imagine a meta where Treachery exists. The three mana card is interesting because we’ve never seen anything like it. While MTG fans will see this as donate, there is no Illusions of Grandeur in this set to make it pay off. That means this card needs to get some serious value in other aspects. That then leads to the question, what cards would you want to give your opponent? The most obvious (and likely the best) choice is going to be Doomsayer. That then turns the three mana spell into a Frost Nova with the downside that you don’t get the board when it triggers, but with the upside that it is guaranteed to go off. This is the most practical application for Treachery, and if a slower Control Warlock ever does see play that combo could work wonders. Yes, you likely won’t be able to use the spell with anything else, but you have enough draw with Lifetap that you will get the 0/7 and the spell together quite a bit.
I also wanted to mention that there are a few cards you wouldn’t mind giving your opponent throughout a game. Things like Bomb Squad, Ticking Abomination and Unlicensed Apothecary hurt your opponent enough that they would not want them. However, I am not convinced those cards are so bad it is worth giving away the board and playing a two card combo. Doomsayer seems to be the only practical application right now. We will have to see if anything else comes with the new set.
There are some really good epics in the new set, and there are some very strong epics on this list. However, I am sorry to say that Skulking Geist is not one of them. Just about everyone and their mother screamed “it kills Jade Druid!” when they saw this card, but there are two problems with that sentiment. First off, the meta is always self correcting. That means, even if this sees a lot of play, people will stop playing Jade. Then, people will take Geist out of their deck, which opens the door for Jade to come back. The other problem is that this card really only hits Jade Druid and it has an abysmal 4/6 for six body. That makes it a really rough tech choice. A lot of the time, tech choices need to have an incredible upside (Golakka Crawler) or be good against multiple decks to see serious play. This misses both of those marks. Some will argue that it’s good against other combo decks, but truthfully there just isn’t anything you really want to hit.
This. So. Much. This. While it may be a bold claim, I think Obsidian Statue could very well turn out to be one of the top three cards of the set. I talked earlier about how larger cards are not the ones that shift the meta, but there are some exceptions to that rule. And I think the nine drop is one of them. The statue is not only powerful, but it is one of the best finishers we have ever seen. This card oozes value in a variety of different ways and, unlike so many big cards, it is good against aggro, midrange, and control. This is the type of finisher Priest has wanted for a long time and, in combination with a certain Old God, I think it could help push Control Priest back into the meta. There have already been numerous iterations in the past two months (I took it to legend in June) and it is just going to get better.
The closest card to Obsidian Statue is Primordial Drake (another amazing finisher) so I thought it would be important to compare the two in slower Control Priest. Priest is a class that loves AOE, which the drake provides. Not only that, but the drake comes down a turn earlier than the statue, which could matter against faster decks. However, that is where the drake’s edge stops. The statue gives you life each turn (which limits burn decks), provides an eight health taunt, and makes it so your opponent cannot protect their biggest threat by trading in the smaller part of their board. The fact that this gives you health, protects your face, and kills something on the way out is unreal. Not to mention, it is also one of the best N’zoth targets ever printed. This could single-handedly bring back slow Priest.
Now here’s how you make a spell. Ten mana cards have traditionally (outside of the old gods) not been that good. They cost too much, don’t impact the board in a meaningful way, and you typically get run over by faster decks while you are trying to get to them. However, Ultimate Infestation breaks that mold because it sits in an entirely different category. This spell is a finisher in its own right and does everything you want a big, expensive card to do. You heal, draw a new hand, and impact the board in two different ways. The five damage is often going to remove a threat, the 5/5 is a great way to trade, the five armor keeps you alive, and the five (FIVE) cards give you unlimited options on your next turn. There is simply no downside here, and I could see this just completely taking over games in the same way Cruel Ultimatum once did in MTG (looking at you Nassif).
This card is solely for Ramp Druid, but it is quite possibly the best curve-topper the deck has. In fact, it is so strong that I could see most Ramp decks shaving off finishers to make way for the infestation. Ramp has always existed in a space where they want to burn most of their hand to get up their curve. However, it is hard to find cards that are worth that trade off. Ultimate Infestation is absolutely worth it, and it refills your hand for the trouble. In fact, it is so good that I could see decks that run every single ramp option just to get to ten as fast as possible. Losing all your cards doesn’t even matter because you get five back right away. What’s not to love?
Poor Rogue, I just don’t know why Blizzard keeps doing this to you. While Valeera and her gang of thieves have gotten some very strong cards this set, they also got Lilian Voss. There isn’t really too much to say about this card, but she is a legendary and I thought shewas worth a mention. Similar to Millhouse Manastorm (yes, we’re going there again) Lilian is a legendary minion who has a negative battlecry. However, unlike Millhouse, she is not overstatted. In fact, she is a fairly statted legendary that hurts you. Replacing cards in your deck with ones you did not put into your deck is never going to be good. That goes double with spells because there are a ton (a ton) of bad spells in Hearthstone. Even if you get good spells, you may not have the mana to cost them. This card ruins your curve, takes away synergy, messes up your combo, and just destroys your hand. Oh yeah, and a 4/5 for four hasn’t been good in two years. Cool concept, but this card is a complete disaster. Even if you manage to curve into a Ethereal Peddler, it’s too unpredictable.
Valeera the Hollow
Do you hear that voice in the back of your mind? The one clawing at your neck and whispering in your ear as you sleep? The voice that makes you sweat and constantly hop on the internet hoping for new spoilers? Of course, I’m talking about the fear that there will be no good Death Knights in the set. With each one revealed my heart sinks a little bit more, and Valeera the Hollow did nothing to dissuade my pessimistic point of view. At nine mana a Death Knight has to do quite a bit, and she really doesn’t do enough. Compare her to Frost Lich Jaina. The Mage gets you instant board presence, healing in the form of both armor and lifesteal, and you get a hero power that could be used to generate more and more value throughout the game. Valeera helps you stop lethal for a turn, gives five armor, and an extra bit of value. Not the same and definitely less impressive. Yes, you can put off dying for one turn, but odds are you’ll just die the next.
Valeera the Hollow is definitely one of the coolest cards around, but it pains me to say that she will likely only see play as a combo card (if she sees play at all). It is important to note that Shadow Reflection leaves your hand at the end of turn, meaning that you cannot stack up cards and, if you want to use them, the first card you play needs to cost less than five mana. That is just a lot of limitations. Not only that, but you also trade away your dagger hero power for one that is only going to be good with things like Cold Blood or Leeroy Jenkins. For those reasons, unless you like the OTK style of play, I don’t think Valeera is going to do that much.
I am so pumped for Knights. Yes, I’ve been harsh on some things, but every set is going to have bad cards. That is just the way of any card game. However, there are also a ton of new cards I cannot wait to sink my teeth into. I have one more set review (depending on the reveal season schedule) planned, and I’m excited to see the rest of the legendaries. Until then, I hope you’re as pumped as I am.