Joseph Reviews: Kobolds and Catacombs (Part 1)
It’s that time again! Just in time for the holidays, we are getting Hearthstone’s next expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs. Though some people do not seem to like the new theme, I’ve always been a fan of subterranean fantasy (major shout out to Drizzt) and I’m really excited for this one. Not only do we have some cool new cards to look at, but there are some deeper exciting mechanics as well. Complexity is something that is always going to make a card game better, and I think there is some much needed stuff coming our way. So, as is tradition, I will be doing reviews throughout the new reveals and break down how the cards will play in Standard. Today, we begin with the Blizzcon cards. Not all of them, but the ones I think are the most interesting.
Sigh. I want to like this card, I really, really do. At first glance it seems like a strong value engine that could help power both Aggro and Handbuff Paladin. However, Drygulch Jailor, like so many early game cards right now, just doesn’t have the stats to keep up. We live in a world of early board presence and tempo decks. If you want to get into the game you need to be able to fight against the early board or play a strong early board. A 2 mana 1/1, even with a powerful ability, just isn’t going to make that happen. This thing dies to Patches the Pirate, doesn’t trade into anything, and also gets killed by Mage, Druid, and Rogue hero powers. It’s really as simple as that. You cannot go out into today’s ladder and try to play a deck that doesn’t do anything early on. There is a chance this card could come to light after rotation if things get much slower, but, if history tells us anything, that likely won’t happen. It is easy to see the dream on this one, but your three buffed recruits aren’t going to do much while you’re getting repeatedly beaten down by an army of tempo minions.
Kobold Illusionist is an interesting card that seems like it could have quite a bit of potential. Stat wise, a 3/3 for four is bland. Extremely bland. However, the deathrattle effect on this one is quite nice. You get some extra board presence, a sticky minion, and potentially a huge swing. Not only that, but if your opponent trades into the 3/3, the 1/1 it summons effectively gains charge. Imagine your opponent trying to figure out what to do, then trading into their 3/3 only to find a 1/1 Cairne Bloodhoof staring at them. That is a gigantic push, and some of the power that comes with the common. This is not a card that is going to change up the class or force Rogue into a new direction, but I think there are a lot more uses for it that it first sems. Of course, you can always hit something useless like a Vilespine Slayer. However, that’s a risk I’d be willing to take.
Where I like this card the most is in Jade Rogue. If you cut down most of the excess fluff for spells, Kobold Illusionist could only have a few strong targets to hit. Copying Jade Swarmer or Aya Blackpaw would be amazing, and you could also throw in a few choice deathrattle cards (such as the aforementioned Cairne Bloodhoof) to make it even more powerful. Also note that, as the four drop itself has a deathrattle, an illusionist summoning another illusionist is not the end of the world. Board presence always matters to a certain extant, and this card seems like it could be a good way to get some extra stickiness.
Lesser Jasper Spellstone
Yes. A thousand times, yes. Lesser Jasper Spellstone is my favorite card revealed so far for two reasons: mechanic and ability. The upgrade mechanic is a fantastic idea and, like so many good cards, just gives you more things to balance and think about on your turn. I am always a fan when games get more complex, and this is an elegant way to make that happen. Now, my love for the mechanics aside, Lesser Jasper Spellstone is also a very strong card in its own right. As we all know, Druid’s biggest weakness is a lack of removal. They have Wrath and Swipe, but both of those cards can be played around. They both also quickly hit a threshold where minions get too big. Lesser Jasper Spellstone does not have that problem because it scales well and can continue to climb. Versatility is the key, and this card oozes it.
Two damage for one mana may be par for the course in Hearthstone, but Druid has never had something quite so efficient. Being able to pick off something like an Enchanted Raven early on without needing to burn the coin on a Wrath can be very strong for decks like Ramp and Jade. Furthermore, if you’re playing against a midrange deck, all you need is one upgrade to get the extra power you need. Two upgrades and you should be able to kill almost every single middle-game threat you face. I see this card as a strong tool for both Jade and Big Druid. Both of those decks would love efficient removal, and they can each get three armor in one turn quite easily. Malfurion the Pestilent immediately comes to mind, but Earthen Scales also does a great job of it. Would you pay one mana for four damage to a minion? I know I would. And when that gets to six, it’s even more absurd. Really excited for this one.
It has been a long while since we’ve had cause to get excited about Hunter’s secrets, but I believe that Wandering Monster is a reason to get pumped. This is a card that does everything Hunter wants to do. You get a strong two drop, an effective curve bump (paying two mana for a three mana minion), board presence, and removal all wrapped up into one. A three drop, on average, is going to give you around three attack. That means the secret should be able to trade with a wide number of early one, two, and three drops. It begins to get outclassed around turn four, but even at that point the card protects your face (or your board) and helps you damage opposing threats. This is a much bigger version of Noble Sacrifice, which has a lot of utility.
Now, the bigger question: will this card see play? Maybe. I am not sure if Wandering Monster is going to have a home in the current versions of Hunter. Today’s midrange is a blend of beasts and board presence. Adding a single secret to that equation, even one that gives you a minion, might be too much of a tell. However, being able to protect your board while moving up the curve is invaluable and exactly what Hunter seeks to do. For that reason, there is definitely some extra power that comes with this one. The fact that hero powers also are weak against it (typically just giving you a minion with one damage on it) helps as well. We’ll have to see, but if this card is good I could see lists going back to Cloaked Huntress to help get it into play without sacrificing tempo.
Gather Your Party
Here we get a look at Kobolds and Catacombs’ newest mechanic, recruit. For those who don’t know, the ability means to pull a minion from your deck in the same way Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound does. So, Gather Your Party really reads “pull a minion from your deck and put it into play.” Not bad, but also, not really that great. The only way this card is going to see serious play is in a Big Warrior control shell where, like Big Priest, you only have strong minions in your deck. A Ysera or The Lich King for six seems like a great deal. However, that plan has a couple of holes. The biggest is that Warrior does not have the support cards that Priest does to get an engine going off of one big card. In addition, control decks run a lot of cards that you don’t want to pull with this. Getting an Acolyte of Pain or Armorsmith with the spell would be a complete disaster.
Another big problem here is, unlike Shadow Essence, Gather Your Party actually pulls the card from your deck rather than creates a copy. That sucks because control decks often want to be able to choose when they are running out their threats. Using Ysera before your opponent has burned hard removal, or committing Grommash Hellscream before you’ve gotten your opponent into lethal range, can lead to a quick loss. Overall, the card is cool, but it is much too unpredictable for what Warrior wants to do. Control Warrior is a deck that wants to consciously make each decision, and even one roll of the dice can screw everything up. There are some classes that would have loved this, but in Warrior it is not worth it.
Oh, baby. I’m just going to go out and say it; Carnivorous Cube is easily (easily) the best card we got on the first day of spoilers. Not only does the five drop have an extremely powerful ability, but the deathrattle synergy is disgusting. A 4/6 for five is a solid body. Now, you could argue that the stats are not as great because you have to destroy one of your own threats, but we all know there are a ton of ways to get around that. Killing something with deathrattle is exactly the play with this card, and when it works the five drop is going to lock down a board. I think this is going to be particularly scary in decks like Zoo or Midrange Hunter where you just keep spamming threats onto the board. Even if you don’t hit some high value deathrattle target, playing a 4/6 that says “deathrattle summon two 2/2’s” can be fantastic. Warlock has never had a problem losing a bit of tempo for more value on the back end, and that is exactly what this epic does.
Even beyond Zoo, Carnivorous Cube has a ton of different uses. Imagine this card hitting any big deathrattle minion like Savannah Highmane, or /card]Aya Blackpaw[/card]. Game. Over. The only real transform spell right now is Devolve, and Shaman isn’t that popular. Every other class is going to have a heck of a time trying to take the 4/6 down. So much so that I could see silence making a big comeback in the meta. Some fringe decks (and Priest) tech it right now, but it could see a lot of more play moving forward. However, cube can even play around silence. You bait your opponent into shutting down your Highmane, then trade it on your next turn and then eat it. Just too much good stuff here, and I’m sure we’ll see even more moving forward.
Just what we needed, more ways to turn Priest into a combo deck. If you don’t know, each class is getting a legendary weapon in the new set that, based on what we’ve seen, has no attack but a very powerful static ability. Dragon Soul is Priest’s, and it seems like it could be a doozy. Anduin loves to play multiple spells in a turn, and being able to get rewarded with board presence from those spells could make that strategy even stronger. Just imagine those crazy Lyra the Sunshard turns, except you also get two or three 5/5 dragons to boot. That is what this card does, and the ceiling gets higher and higher the more turns you keep it up. Three spells is almost nothing to the current Razakus decks, and I believe they will adopt this without so much as a second thought. However, the card’s ability has so much potential it could even bring about new spell-oriented combo decks as well.
The only problem with the legendary weapon cycle is that almost everyone is going to teching an ooze or Harrison Jones during the early days (and maybe late days) of the expansion. Does that mean these cards are going to be unplayable? No, but they are going to be tricky to work with. Dragon Soul can be used on the same turn as a bunch of cheap spells to play around that, which makes it quite strong. In addition, I believe many builds are going to play Medivh, the Guardian to really put their opponent into a tight spot. They either let the Atiesh go off and risk losing the board, or they get crushed by the legendary weapon that comes down next turn.
I have seen that a lot of people are down on Aluneth, and I get why. This card is flashy, but when you start to think about it there are a lot of problems. One, drawing three extra cards a turn can quickly turn into an issue for any deck holding cards in their hand. You can’t risk burning cards in a combo or control deck, and even midrange would want to put a cap on going into fatigue too soon against slower builds. Also, six mana is a long time to wait before you get any type of engine going. Yes, your engine is never going to end, but if you reach fatigue without a way to stop it you are quickly going to die as well. These type of cards typically seem very strong when you first see them. However, once put into practice they can fall short.
Now, all of that being said, I really like this card. At the very least, you’re getting three cards for six mana. Not a great deal, but just below Nourish. I see the weapon in a hyper-aggro deck to act as a psuedo-Jeeves. Drawing up with Aluneth in something like Freeze Mage isn’t going to get you value because there’s too much risk. However, if you have no hand in a deck full of burn, that’s a different story. I see this is as a curve topper in a straight-up burn build like the Coldlight Freeze decks from a few months ago. Those lists didn’t care about what their opponent did. They simple wanted to do damage and draw cards. Aluneth helps with both of those things, and for those reasons I think it has quite a bit of potential. Yes, it is weak to removal, but that’s a risk those decks should be willing to take.
Marin the Fox
The free legendary of the set, Marin the Fox is a slow (sloooow) legendary that just seems to be severely outclassed by just about every other big finisher that takes up the same space. There is no doubt that the treasure chest cards are powerful, but that doesn’t mean too much when you have to work so hard to get them. Being able to do eight damage on the board typically means you’re already ahead, and that damage could easily go elsewhere. Yes, there are some applications where you instantly kill the 0/8 with something like Shadow Word: Pain or Execute, but you’d typically much rather use those on your opponent’s minions. A very cool design, but it would be much more interesting as a midrange threat with a smaller body. Currently, finishers need to do more. Just look at this compared to The Lich King. Not only do you get more stats and a card right away (not to mention every turn) but you also protect your face. Marin misses on all of those levels.
What else can I say except that I am excited? The upgrade mechanic is awesome, and targeted recruit cards (play a minion with x from your deck) could simply increase efficiency. New cards are the heart and soul of any game, and there is definitely some potential here. Of course, we need to wait a few weeks for the next reveals, but there is no doubt that I am excited for them. Things are only going to get excited for here on out. As always, thanks for reading!