Part 2

by Nick ‘Hellthrower’ Gkavra

See part 1 here

          Blackrock Mountain left us in a meta dominated by Grim Patron, a deck that was considered the strongest in tournaments and the most efficient to climb the ranked ladder with. Players wanted a change, but even though the deck was later nerfed and considerably weakened, the upcoming sets would introduce some even more frustrating cards to deal with.

4. The Grand Tournament (Expansion)
Release Date: August 24, 2015
Removal date from Standard format: TBD 2017

tgt hearthstone expansions

The Grand Tournament tried to experiment with the Hero powers. Many cards revolved around that part of the game and the Inspire mechanic was also implemented. A mechanic that converted the tempo of the hero power to value. However, that turned out to be way too slow, and even huge value generators like [Confessor Paletress] did not see any play in constructed.

[Totem Golem]

          Overload always allowed shaman to achieve great value for cheap. The Grand Tournament provided shaman with an amazing 2 drop. A class that, at that moment was considered the worst, was in need of such a powerful minion that saw no counterplay on turn 2. Therefore, [Totem Golem] pushed Shaman to a more aggessive deck, which eventually became tier 1 after League of Explorers.

[Mysterious Challenger]

          Upon its announcement, [Mysterious Challenger] was greatly underrated and did not catch everybody’s attention. The first professional players that experimented with the card did not see wonderful results. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that people realized [Mysterious Challenger] enabled Paladin to take a more aggressive approach to its game plan. In fact, with cards like [Shielded Minibot], [Muster for Battle] and a bunch of secrets, Secret Paladin quickly became the most dominant deck on ladder and tournaments. [Mysterious Challenger], in the end, was a card that shaped a whole meta itself.

Worthy Mentions:

  • [Living Roots]: A formidable Druid card with strong versatility. Get quickly on board, or kill an early minion that your opponent throws at you.
  • [Arcane Blast]: Pushed the Tempo Mage archetype even more. A deck that already included [Bloodmage Thalnos] and [Azure Drake] was a warm welcome for [Arcane Blast]. It also fit greatly in the pack of cheap mage spells that [Flamewaker] benefit from.
  • [Twilight Guardian] and [Alexstrasza’s Champion]: Two powerful Dragon synergy cards that enabled the rise of the Dragon Priest and Warrior archetypes.
  • [Justicar Trueheart]: Although it hasn’t seen enough usage in many decks other than Warrior, it has greatly helped him become the best control class.
  • [Tuskarr Totemic]: Wasn’t played until the rotation of Vitality totem ouf of standard, when it increased its odds of having a great result to 3/7.

5. League of Explorers (Adventure)
Release Date: November 12, 2015
Removal date from Standard format: TBD 2017

loe hearthstone expansions

League of Explorers was the adventure that included the Discover mechanic. A pretty interesting effect that created situational advantages. Getting [Bloodsail Corsair] from a [Dark Peddler], while your opponent has a gorehowl equiped is a wonderful feeling.

[Sir Finley Mrrgglton]

          One of the most unique uses of the Discover mechanic. Sir Finley helped classes with irrelevant hero powers to take a more aggressive route. Great demonstration of that is Warrior; Patron Warrior could search for fire blast while Dragon and Pirate Warrior looked out for [Steady Shot] and [Life Tap]. Surely the versatility is great and the outcome is rarely unfitting.

[Tunnel Trogg]

          The infamous 1 drop greatly aided Shaman to become an ultimately aggressive deck. With early overload cards, such as [Totem Golem] and [Ancestral Knowledge], Shaman took its first form as an aggressive deck. However, with later expansions, [Tunnel Trogg] proved its worth in midrange decks too, helping Shaman have one of the most powerful curves.

Worthy Mentions:

  • [Dark Peddler]: Just a solid 2 drop for Warlock. Fits equally in Zoo and control decks. Additionally, it takes advantage of strong warlock cards like [Flame Imp] and [Possessed Villager].
  • [Tomb Pillager]: After tons of nerfs, [Tomb Pillager] signaled the comeback of Miracle Rogue.
  • [Anyfin Can Happen]: An interesting combo card for Paladin. Murloc Paladin has survived as an archetype despite the rotation of [Old Murk-Eye].
  • [Reno Jackson]: One of the most distinctive Legendaries, that encourages thoughtful deck-building.
  • [Forgotten Torch]: An amazing card with a unique mechanism. It is an easy choice for most Tempo Mages and a must-include in the Freeze Mage deck. 1 card for 9 damage speaks for itself.

6. Whispers of the Old Gods (Expansion)
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Removal date from Standard format: TBD 2018

wotog hearthstone expansions

[Flamewreathed Faceless]

          A 4 mana 7/7 is enough to describe this minion. Coining out this card on turn 3 can single-handedly win you the game, if there is no answer from the other side of the board. Despite the huge value this card provided, it was pushed aside after a few months, since Shaman took a more midrange approach.

[Thing from Below]

          We observed previously how powerful reducing a card’s cost can be (eg [Emperor Thaurissan]). In a meta where there is [Totem Golem], [Flametongue Totem], [Mana Tide Totem] and obviously Shaman’s hero power, [Thing from Below] can effectively be reduced down to 2-3 mana very quickly. Furthermore, it provides a very solid protection body for cards that generate value over time, like mana tide totem and [Thunder Bluff Valiant].

[Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End]

          Almost nobody expected Yogg-Saron to be used competitively once its release was announced. [C’Thun] and [N’Zoth, the Corruptor] have seen their fair usage in the ladder and tournaments, and even [Y’Shaarj, Rage Unbound] had its week of spotlight, in a Hunter deck. However it was Yogg-Saron that defined the whole meta. It shined in Druid, a class that not only does it have many valuable spells, but can also generate even more ([Raven Idol], [Wild Growth] on turn 10). People at first tried to figure out the borderline number of spells that can provide the maximum value, but with time we concluded that “the more the better” is a fitting slogan for Yogg-Saron. Its RNG elements, though, made Tournaments unfair to play in and too disappointing for many players who had to face it. As a result, it ended up being nerfed.

Worthy Mentions:

  • [Fandral Staghelm]: A brilliant example of a well-printed card. Taking advantage of Druid’s unique mechanic, “Choose-one”, it became an automatic include in most Druid decks.
  • [Call of the Wild]: Another underrated card from the Old Gods set that proved to be overpowered. Playing 3 of the Hunter’s most powerful cards, [Animal Companion], in one turn, for 1 less mana, was difficult to deal with for many players. Eventually, it got nerfed(From 8 mana to 9).
  • [Darkshire Councilman]: Zoo lost many cards with the rotation of standard mode, and Darkshire Councilman helped the archetype to make a strong return.
  • [Ravaging Ghoul]: An exquisite card, helping Warrior remain viable as a control deck.
  • [C’Thun]: While C’Thun is being used only in Warrior decks now, it is a meta-defining card, that cannot be ignored. It has been the ultimate wining condition of every [C’Thun] deck, obviously.

7. One Night in Karazhan (Adventure)
Release Date: September 1, 2016
Removal date from Standard format: TBD 2018

hearthstone expansions karazhan

[Arcane Giant]

          As mentioned before, Druid’s set includes numerous spells, some of which can generate even more. So what better card could an already top tier class get from this adventure, other than [Arcane Giant]? Providing the capability to play two 8/8s for potentially free, is the reason Druid remains a Tier 1 class.

[Spirit Claws]

          The card that converted Shaman from an aggressive class to a midrange. Everyone knows that [Fiery War Axe] is one of the best cards in the game, so you can only imagine how strong [Spirit Claws] can be in a deck with 3 spell damage cards, and a 25% possibility to get a spell damage totem every turn.

[Cloaked Huntress]

          All 3 cards that Hunter got from Karazhan are marvelous and are used in most decks. However, it is the tempo and value that [Cloaked Huntress] provides that makes Hunter a competitive class. The class itself includes a variety of means to refill the hand ([Tracking], [Quick Shot]), so dumping a hand full of secrets doesn’t sound quite that disastrous.

Worthy Mentions:

  • [Maelstrom Portal]: Yet another card that pushed Shaman to change to a more midrange playstyle. Thanks to the area of effect power Shaman received from this adventure, Zoo reduced in popularity.
  • [Firelands Portal]: A big boost on Tempo Mage. This card is a very flexible choice later on the game, as it removes + puts a body on the board with just one card! And do not underestimate its capability of going face!
  • [Barnes]: A card with no drawback, is a Low risk-Huge reward minion. Has great synergy with cards people already played, like [Ragnaros the Firelord] and [Savannah Highmane].


What can we conclude from the above observations? It seems pretty obvious that the most impactful cards from each new card set, the cards that create new archetypes and place all the decks in a ranked tier list, are less than 10. However, those are enough to shape a stable meta for many months, which is only disturbed by nerfs or decklists specifically created to counter the Tier 1 decks.

Blizzcon is now over, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan was announced, and with it plenty new cards, and new unique mechanics, including the Tri-Class cards. But will we be able to predict which of those are going to be the most impactful? History says no! and this is justified by the fact that the meta in Hearthstone is dynamic. It constantly changes in the first few weeks of a set release, until it settles to what seems the most balanced.

All we can do right now is make wild guesses, pre-build the decks we want to try, and wait until Gadgetzan’s release to figure out if we were right that time around, or if we were caught off-guard by yet another underrated card.