A Mammoth Year: How the “Hall of Fame” Set will Affect the Meta
Things are getting spicy. As we move forward, big changes are coming to Hearthstone. Not only is rotation happening soon on top of a brand new secret set (get it?), but we also are getting Standard Arena, new nerfs, and a Wild Heroic Tavern Brawl. Oh, and Blizzard is also introducing us to the “Hall of Fame” set. For those that don’t know, that means they are taking six Standard cards and porting them into Wild when the next set comes out. This is a very cool idea that not only allows Blizz to rotate more cards as times goes on (which they will) but it also gives more variation to the game that we all love. In this article we are going to look at the six cards being moved out with the next rotation and do some speculating on how much they are going to impact the future meta.
We begin our conversation with Conceal, the card that has enabled Miracle Rogue to be so miraculous for so long. No matter how you cut it, this is a big blow to Valeera. Not only does it mean you need to get value from Gadgetzan Auctioneer as soon as you play it, but Rogue will no longer rely on going all-in on Edwin VanCleef or Questing Adventurer once its gone. This cripples two different win conditions that the class has used to stay afloat for a long time. For that reason, losing Conceal may greatly impact Rogue by forcing it to take a much more aggressive and midrange approach or, at the very least, hold combo in check.
However, that being said, it is not that hard to get value from on the turn that you play it. Rogue has been nerfed countless times, and no matter what happens they seem to prevail. Things like Counterfeit Coin and Preparation are still going to allow Miracle to exist, and even drawing three or four cards alongside a 4/4 is a huge tempo. Not to mention that as long as Leeroy Jenkins is around they are going to have its finisher. While I think this may change how Miracle operates, it will likely only slow the deck down.
Oh combo, we knew thee well. It is very apparent that Blizzard absolutely abhors combo decks, and Freeze Mage has become their latest casualty. While losing this card is not going to make a huge impact across the meta, it does do two things of note. One, it stops any possible future aggro Mage decks from popping up. That is not to say that the deck won’t get any new tools in the future, but losing this is going to limit any builds that want to crush their opponent quickly with Frostbolt. It makes the class much less aggressive and puts it in a slower light.
In addition, this is going to end Freeze Mage. Though there is some potential, unless the deck gets some insane synergy cards it is not going to be able to survive the ever-shifting ladder. Double Ice Lance for a quick eight damage is essential for the deck to be able to both burst down after healing and kill people from the high-teens. Without the one mana card, it just loses so much of its unfairness that it will truly need to rely on Alexstrasza and Archmage Antonidas to survive. That will be good enough in some matches, but any type of healing is going to hold it back. And that’s a problem in a world where being unfair is key.
Now this is huge. I would say, besides the below move, taking away Power Overwhelming is going to have the longest lasting impact on the Standard meta. The first thing to discuss is how this card limits combo. Leeroy Jenkins/Faceless Manipulator has always been there in the past for slow Warlock decks as a way to fight other slow decks. Without that, it is going to force Handlock-type decks to rely on grinding their opponent down, causing them to back end their curve or go all-in against aggro and settle for Lord Jaraxxus. While this is something they’ve done before, it does cripple one of their biggest advantages and switches the lists to a more honest control.
Losing Power Overwhelming is going to have a much bigger impact on Zoo. Though the aggro deck has been kept in check for some time because of the rise of Midrange Shaman, it is one of the most consistent and powerful builds in the history of the game. Zoo always bounces back the meta shifts, but losing PO may drive a heavy nail into its coffin. In fact, I’m not sure it will be able to survive. The deck has always been predicated on trading up, and an instant 4/4 is the best trading tool ever printed. Without it, Zoo is no longer going to have reliable burst or a way to deal with taunts (two of their biggest problems in the past). If that happens, just playing a bunch of small minions may not be enough to fight midrange or control.
Probably the most significant change (besides rotation itself) is going to be the loss of Azure Drake. The five drop is one of the strongest cards ever printed and it has taken over the middle game for just about every top tier deck that needs it. While the 4/4 has seen play in almost all classes, this is really going to hurt Rogue, Shaman, Druid, and Mage. Druid is most likely going to have to switch back to Druid of the Claw to help fill out their curve, while the other three classes are going to be l;eft scrounging. The reason being that all of those classes need card advantage to exist, and without it they are going to suffer immensely. The body is solid, but the card draw is much more important.
Limiting how well Shaman, Mage and Rogue can cycle may drive those classes out of the midrange or tempo route all-together. Even beyond the spell power, a good midrange deck relies on card advantage to exist. You simply cannot play out minions without any draw and hope to survive in today’s game. For those reasons, I believe that Shaman will fall drastically, while Rogue will focus on aggro or Miracle and Mage will become much slower (maybe even Reno without Reno). It should also be mentioned that a lack of midrange decks almost always opens the door for aggro or heavy control to shine. That could easily mean the revival of some old archetypes like Face Hunter and Control Warrior. Look for them when rotation occurs.
Another gigantic shift is going to be the loss of Sylvanas Windrunner. As with Azure Drake, Sylvanas has been the go-to midrange card for the past two years. There is just nothing that competes with the 5/5 and I honestly don’t think anything will. That is to say, unless some insane cards come our way soon, I think the six drop spot is going to be largely empty of minions. Rather, classes are going to turn to spells or five or six drops to strengthen their curve. There are some options right now, but none of them are very strong. The only card that fills a similar role is Cairne Bloodhoof, and I think the game has sped up too much for the 4/5 to matter as much as it once did.
It is highly unlikely that another neutral card is going to rise up and fill in for the windrunner. For that reason, it is likely that all of the go-big or high-curve midrange decks that want to exist are simply going to slow down and switch over to control. Aggro is still going to be very strong come rotation (as it always is during a shift) and stacking more healing or AOE may be a natural response anyway. Especially that there is no longer incentive to take the middle road. This loss, combined with the loss of Azure Drake and Emperor Thaurissan, is going to leave midrange in a very bad spot across all classes. It is going to take some serious power to bring it back.
Ragnaros the Firelord
Finally. I have long discussed my disdain for the Ragnaros the Firelord, and I for one am not going to miss the 8/8 in Standard. This is another case of a powerful card that has taken over a slot and kept it to himself for a long time. Once again though, I think the eight drop slot largely suffers from the Sylvanas problem. That is to say, once it is gone it is going to be very hard to replace. Only Paladin’s legendaries have really been able to compete at eight and that is because they are just so immediate. If no neutral card seeks to take Rags spot it is going to significantly hurt both midrange and control. Midrange loses yet another curve-topper minion and control loses one of their most important slots. If nothing comes for the firelord I believe that almost all control lists will begin to either play just one big finisher (think Ysera) or try hard to just play the fatigue game as long as they can. If aggro really starts to percolate and midrange dies, lists could simply allocate all of their resources to staying alive.
Changes are coming. Hearthstone is always the best when the game shifts, and we are going to be up for quite a treat in the coming months. All six of these cards have been big players in the past, and the game is definitely going to shift significantly without them. I would look for more aggro (sorry guys) or very grindy control. There is just a lot of talk about coming up. A new set is always fun and exciting, and rotation is a whole different beast. I am going to be covering a lot of different shake-ups that we’ll be seeing soon and have videos (as always) to boot. Hope you stay tuned for that, and thank you so much for reading!