Joseph Reviews: Kobolds and Catacombs (Final)
Wow. Just…wow. I don’t say this often (in fact I’ve never said it) but we may well be on the verge of the most powerful set since GVG. Kobolds and Catacombs have given us a ton of interesting and extremely powerful cards that look to do some real damage to the meta. I am over the moon excited about Thursday, and cannot wait to get to some brewing. However, before that, we need to finish up these reviews. I’m going to break down a few of the more interesting cards we’ve seen over the past week and, as always, look at how they might play in the coming days. I’m also a doing a top 10 for the set, but that’s not until Monday. For now, let’s dive into some recent cards.
Well, we’re starting strong. It is no secret that Control Warrior (and all Warriors really) has taken a huge dive with the nerf of Fiery War Axe. I’m not sure what it’s going to need to climb back into the meta, but there is no doubt that Drywhisker Armorer is a start. This card is Cult Apothecary on steroids, and if Control Warrior comes back, this card is going to see a lot of play. There isn’t too much to say about the 2/2. It just does exactly what Warrior wants. Yes, it is not a two drop in the same sense as Armorsmith, where you can just run it out whenever you feel like it, but it has a much bigger payoff throughout the game. There aren’t too many swarm decks running around, but even if your opponent only has three minions it’s a 2/2 battlecry: gain six life. That’s extremely spicy. Four minions and it’s a way (waaay) better Antique Healbot. Also, and this is specially worth noting, it is so much better than Armorsmith when dropped into a Brawl. That combo alone could elevate it to see play.
Elven Min-Droool…Sorry about that, guys. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, Elv….Drooool. Jesus. Ok, yes. Elven Minstrel is quite the card. Best card in the set? Honestly, probably not even top five (though we’ll see on Monday). That’s how good Kobolds is looking. Even so, this thing is just what every Miracle Rogue player could ever want. A lot of people may look at this card and see it as a good value engine for Tempo Rogue, but honestly, this doesn’t seem to fit in that deck at all. Not only is it undercosted, but using combo for this makes you much less likely to have a cheap card for Vilespine Slayer on the following turn. I expect both of those factors to keep it out of the deck. Though, the combo is so strong that I could totally be wrong and it may be worth playing anyway. Draw two on a minion is nutty.
The reason Elven Minstrel is amazing in Miracle is because, as it can only hit minions, you can control what it draws. In Tempo Rogue you’re rolling blindly, hoping to hit something on curve or a powerful swing play that isn’t your second Swashburglar. In Miracle, the options are much more limited. You can basically make it to this almost always hits either Gadgetzan Auctioneer or a high-value threat. Need a Vilespine on five? Check. Auctioneer on six? Check. Some of those sweet late game Arcane Giants? Check. Check. There are just so few options, and all of them are good. Not only that, but the four drop also takes dead Auctioneer draws out of your deck and makes you much more likely to draw spells. Talk about value.
This is how you build an elemental. I mean, look at this thing. Relevant tag, strong body, on-curve into Servant of Kalimos, and can we talk about the ability? If this card only discounted spells, it would honestly just be ok. Yes, hitting things like Cabalist's Tome and the new spellstone could be strong (also discounting Primordial Glyph by another two), but that would really pigeonhole this into one or two niche combo builds. The fact that you get a minion discount along with the spells is what really blows this thing open. First off, you can use Simulacrum to discount your bonus Sorcerer's Apprentices to zero for Quest Mage. Not only that, but this also discounts Pyros‘ bigger bodies, Flame Elemental, discovered cards, and any minion artificially put into your hand through a spell. And I’m sure I’m forgetting some. There is so much potential for this card, and I’m excited to see where it goes. If Elemental Mage becomes a meta deck, this is definitely going to be the four drop of choice. Chillwind Yeti has never looked so good.
Another card that I seem to be much higher than most people on, Possessed Lackey is a five drop that I believe has quite a bit of potential. Yes, it is a bit slow, but we may well be entering a world where playing slow Warlock is ok. Both Demonlock and Kazakus-Lock (if they exist) will be running some really big demons like Voidlord and Doomguard. Playing those for their mana is great, but cheating them into play is much, much better. I think putting the 2/2 down against something like Tempo Rogue or Midrange Hunter is going to give them absolute fits. Do they kill it? What is going to come out? Those type of mind games are great and can stall the game in numerous ways. You may have to cut down on the low-cost demons to make this work, but that could well be worth speeding up your curve by a few turns.
Cards like these are often overlooked or immediately thrown out. However, that is a very strong ability on a seemingly weak minion. The big question here is, will you be able to play a five mana 2/2? In past metas, the answer would have been a resounding no. In the upcoming one…I’m not so sure. While I don’t think the fabled “control meta” will come about, there is no doubt we live in a world where things routinely get to turn ten. Even with all the tempo running around. In that case, I do believe this card is good enough for slow Warlocks. This is one of my dicier calls, but the upside is too big to ignore. Not to mention, there are a ton of ways to kill the lackey, including Hellfire and Defile.
Lesser Emerald Spellstone
While I am not sure if Lesser Emerald Spellstone is going to bring Hunter to the top of the meta, I do believe that it is one of the most interesting cards in the set. First and foremost, it is much better than other spellstones. The ability is not great initially, but you’re going to be playing secrets if you’re running this, and that is an extremely easy upgrade with a huge payoff. Three or four wolves is always going to be strong in a class like Hunter. Not to mention, this also drops on turn five, which has notoriously been a problem for Rexxar. These “army in a can” cards like Living Mana and Unleash the Hounds are almost always good. Not only can they both bait or play around AOE, but they instantly provide board presence or tempo. I don’t see why this one should be any different, especially in a class that just wants priority.
Something else to note here (and another reason I’m so high on this card) is that this, like Animal Companion, is a way to generate minions without actually putting minions into your deck. That makes Kathrena Winterwisp much stronger and also helps build a true Spell Hunter archetype. I am not sure if the Savannah Highmane/Seeping Oozeling deck is going to be good (I will be building it), but it definitely needs cards like this in order to exist. I am also a fan of Blizzard pushing a Hunter archetype that might actually see play. Good stuff all around, and definitely worth a second look.
Well, Rogue finally got Ice Block. We can all go home now. In all seriousness, while this spell appears to be good, I don’t think it’s as powerful as it first seems. The biggest problem for me here is that the two mana secret just doesn’t really have a deck. You would never play this in Tempo Rogue, and Miracle (which I’ve played a lot over the past two months) is extremely tight. It does have some new options to slot in, but they’re all better than this. Miracle, despite its slow nature, wants cards that actively push tempo and effect the board. Evasion does neither.
Another issue with this card is that, should it ever become meta, people will know how to play around it. The other Rogue secrets are likely to see zero play, which means your opponent will always know when you have this up. They will also know that you have it in your deck. That means they can easily plan for it by stacking up damage or saving their one big burn spell. Of course, there will be some games where they just can’t do anything about the secret, but those may be few and far between. Ice Block is amazing because you can run it out on any turn and leave it up forever. Evasion seems weak precisely because it can’t do that. If you want to stay alive for a turn, I would stick with Valeera the Hollow.
I don’t know much, but I do know that Warrior loves armor. The question for Reckless Fury is, do they love it enough to give it up? This card is in an interesting spot. It is some of the most efficient removal we’ve ever seen (getting armor is never going to be hard for Garrosh) but it does come with a significant drawback. There is no doubt this card is strong. A three mana board clear is almost always going to be insane. The problem comes with the fact that you’re not just paying three mana, you’re also paying health. For that reason, I think this card may be used as a one-of in Control Warrior, but it is a bit too inconsistent to be the locked-in staple spell that it first looks like. Yes, it is amazing during the middle game when you have three to six armor, but what about when you have ten to twenty? Is it really going to be worth losing that much health? In some situations, yes. In others, no. I am not a fan of that inconsistency, but I do know power when I see it. Definitely worth testing against Sleep with the Fishes, but I predict it won’t have the raw power to become a regular choice.
A lot of people are writing this off as a Blizzard meme card, and I don’t blame them. The phrase “discard your hand” is always going to be met with suspicion. However, I believe Cataclysm has some real potential. Lakkari Sacrifice is not a card that has seen much play (fine, zero play) since it got released. A big reason for that is the deck was too slow and inconsistent, but another reason was because it didn’t have the right tools. Now, it may have gotten the right tools. Many games while playing Quest Warlock, you would quest, try to discard, hit the wrong cards, and then lose on turn four or five with a half-completed sacrifice. This literally fixes all of those problems, which is something to pay attention to.
Cataclysm makes you discard your whole hand, which means you are always going to hit your triggers. No more praying for a clutch Silverware Golem or Clutchmother Zavas to save you. If they’re in your hand, they’re getting discarded. Not to mention, you also get a huge push towards triggering your quest, and, most importantly, you also clear the board to make up for any early tempo loss. I can see many games where a turn four Cataclysm into a Silverware Golem swings the entire game. Even waiting until turn five to combo this with is a pretty insane play. This may be the missing link Discolock has been searching for.
Unfortunately, as with just about every legendary weapon, Val'anyr is cool and flashy, but not very good. This card has a great ability, and the potential to give you infinite value. My issue with it is that it really doesn’t do all that much. The buff could be significant, and the power is definitely there (I love the fact that you get a free equip). However, six mana for a 4/2 weapon is extremely slow, especially in the tempo-oriented meta we all live in. Taking the time to set this up on something like Doppelgangster or Saronite Chain Gang may sound appealing, but I fear you’ll be just dead by the time your engine gets going. There are just too many decks that can bring the pain too quickly. You equip this going second, and your opponent hits you with Bonemare. Now what? In addition, Paladin would much rather play Spikeridged Steed or Sunkeeper Tarim over this any day. Impacting the board is almost always going to better than setting something up, and that’s exactly why this gets outclassed. The one thing I will say is you should not get caught up on the fact that this gets crushed by silence. If your opponent does shut down the minion, it merely opens the door for things like Tirion Fordring.
Wrapping things up is our resident Control/Recruit Warrior legendary, Geosculptor Yip. This card is boring, but I think it is actually amazing. What I like about the eight drop is not the fact that you get to power out two big threats (though that helps), but that both of those threats have the potential to take over the game. I always talk about “lightning rod” cards that need to immediately removed. Those are always great because they protect other minions on the board and generate a lot of tempo by demanding attention. However, most lightning rods are small bodies or do not come in with any support. Yip is a minion that needs to be dealt with right away, is hard to deal with, and, if set up right, will likely be a smaller threat than the other minions he summons. That’s the complete package.
A 4/8 is a very solid body. So solid that it is going to take some effort to remove, especially when facing the constantly-board-wiping Control Warrior. In fact, there are definitely going to be games where someone plays Bring It On! and then drops Geosculptor Yip. That’s too much power for a lot of lists to deal with. Then, even if they have removal, what do they kill? Your opponent needs to take out the big minion you summoned, but if they don’t deal with Geosculptor they’re just going to be in the same situation next turn. This is a tempo finisher, and something you need to be aware of. I think it could very well be one of the best legendaries in the set.
I said it once, and I’ll say it again. Wow. This set is really looking good. Of course, there is no way to know how the meta will take shape, but I expect the current game to be shaken up quite a bit. It is no secret that I was pumped up for Knights, but I am much more pumped for this one. There are a lot of cards that aren’t too flashy (I think the legendary weapons missed as a whole) but the good is really, really, really good. Cannot wait for next week.