Hearthstone's Goblins vs Gnomes expansion promises to shake up Blizzard's popular card game once again. The studio has been slowly teasing out cards for a month, and finally dumped the rest alongside a release date. We can already get an idea of which classes are primed to get a helpful boost or even an entirely new play style.
Feign Death - Hunter
In a meta already bursting with Deathrattle Hunters, this card practically comes gift-wrapped. Hunters already have a tendency to steamroll their opponents with an Undertaker paired with a handful of low-cost minions like Leper Gnome and Haunted Creeper. This lets you use those abilities without losing your minions, and if you run two Feign Death cards you get to do it twice. Alternatively, you can trigger your Nerubian Egg without losing the Egg itself, or get your Hyenas out of a Savannah Highmane while you hold onto it. Value city.
Recombobulator - Neutral
A sort of randomized reincarnate, this card is designed to let you cheese the system a little. It will fit perfectly into two types of decks. Battlecry minions tend to have weaker stats to compensate for the effect, so you could play one and then swap it out for one that may have better vanilla stats. Alternatively, you could play a card with a Deathrattle drawback, which would have very good stats for the mana cost, get some use out of it and then swap it before it dies. We should see some fun plays with this little gnome.
Vitality Totem - Shaman
Shaman is a competitive class, but hardcore Shaman players have had one chief complaint: for all its spell damage, there's no effective healing mechanism. Vitality Totem changes that, with a big heal that takes place on its first turn and then each turn after that if it's left standing on the board. This will likely be best for the late-game, when a Shaman needs healing and can put out bigger threats that their opponents will need to prioritize, but it's very efficient for the cost.
Bouncing Blade - Warrior
This card fits so perfectly into the current Control Warrior archtype. With several cards that benefit from getting pinged with damage, you can count on the random damage from Bouncing Blade to buff your Frothing Berserker, activate your Grommash Hellscream, ping your minions for Armor with your Armorsmith, or all three at once. Or, used as an offensive tool, it's a cheap and easy way to remove high-health minions like Ysera by simply making sure it's the only one on the board before use.
Li'l Exorcist - Neutral
Tired of getting flooded with Deathrattle minions? Li'l Exorcist is here to help. By turn three your Hunter or Warlock opponent probably has two or three minions with Deathrattle on the board, giving you a shot a a 5/6 minion with Taunt on the third turn. It's a smart way to make for easy trades and could seriously impact the current Deathrattle-heavy meta-game. Your opponent will have to sacrifice their precious minions or use a spell to get rid of her--which is when you should play a second Li'l Exorcist and watch them rage-quit.
Scarlet Purifier - Paladin
Paladin is one of the weaker classes in the current meta, partly because it's so poorly equipped to deal with the rush and aggro-type decks. This card seems aimed at rectifying that, with a Battlecry that effectively removes most early-game Deathrattle minions. It costs one lower than Consecrate, and leaves you with a decently-priced minion on the board to boot. As long as Deathrattle decks continue to be a thing--and given cards like Feign Death, of course they will--Scarlet Purifier is a nice counter. Besides that, he hits your own Deathrattle minions, so if you happen to have a Nerubian Egg on the board, it's an easy way to crack it. With the help of a coin, you could end turn 3 with two 4/4s and one 3/3 on the board. Not bad at all.
Iron Juggernaut - Warrior Legendary
This card is the best example of a new mechanic Blizzard is playing with, in which drawing in the deck itself is an element of play. When you put down the Iron Juggernaut on turn 6, your opponent will have fewer than 20 cards left. From there it's a massive game of Russian roullette, forcing your opponent to stay above 10 health for fear of impending death at any moment. For extra fun, pair this with mill-style cards that force your opponent to draw and cackle as the panic sets in.
Mech-Bear-Cat - Druid
It remains to be seen how significant the new Spare Parts mechanic will be in Hearthstone after GvG launches, but Mech-Bear-Cat is easily the most efficient at providing them. With decent vanilla stats for the cost, it could easily provide two Spare Parts and a ton of damage before it falls. Druid is also the class that most often has spare Mana laying around, which means it synergizes well with the 1-mana Spare Parts.
Gahz'rilla - Hunter Legendary
With decent vanilla stats, Gahz'rilla is a neat late-game card that could help Hunter escape the lurch of zoo and rush being the best viable deck types. Then you factor in the cost, and it gets downright deadly. Gahz's effect means opponents will always need to find a way to kill it in one shot, which can be easier said than done with 9 health. If your opponent is foolish enough to leave it standing, you can pair a Wild Pyromancer and Arcane Shot in the next turn to turn this thing into a 24-damage wrecking ball.
Troggzor the Earthinator - Neutral Legendary
A Legendary clearly aimed at countering spell-heavy decks, Troggzor is a foe to be reckoned with for Freeze Mages and Miracle Rogues. Even if they cast a spell to kill it instantly, it summons a 3/5 minion. Your unfortunate spell-casting opponent would then have to cast a second spell to get rid of that one, lest it gain extra attack power with each subsequent spell. If you set this up just before a Miracle turn, you'll basically have your board full of crushing minions and one very sad Rogue.
Sneed's Old Shredder - Neutral Legendary
The stats aren't great for the cost, but what a Deathrattle. Even if you get a poor Legendary like Nat Pagle, Sneed's Old Shredder becomes a 5/11 for 8 Mana. That's a wash at worst, and the possibility of summoning a Ragnoros, Ysera, or Deathwing is too good to ignore. Better yet, it can summon class Legendaries, meaning you could be a Warlock with a Tirion Fordring on your board, or a Rogue who summons the Windlord. This should be the first crafting for anyone with enough dust to spare, for sheer novelty alone.
Gnomish Experimenter - Neutral
This card is so terrible I'm half-convinced Blizzard meant it as a joke. 3 Mana for a 3/2 minion isn't very good stats to start with. The card draw gives it a slight advantage, but then immediately undermines it by the possibility of turning your draw into something absolutely useless. Even the most spell-heavy decks like Freeze Mage rely on some minions while they prepare their spell-heavy turns, so the risk of trashing one of your own cards is too great.
Ancestor's Call - Shaman
You could envision a scenario where Ancestor's Call works really well. In that scenario, you have a big minion in your hand, and you're playing against a Zoo deck, and you've removed most of its threats so far. You put down this card, get your big minion out, and they get another Leper Gnome. But honestly, how often will that happen? Putting an enemy minion out means you constantly run the risk of trading equally--even Zoo decks usually play on-curve. Worse yet, you could hand your opponent the win by putting out a big minion of their own.
Bolvar Fordragon - Paladin Legendary
Poor Bolvar. This card has a unique mechanic that seems to synergize well with the Paladin's Hero Ability, but practically it just isn't great. Even assuming your earlier turns lost one low-cost minion per turn, Bolvar would only be buffed to a 5/7. That would be good for a Neutral card, but it's awful for a Legendary one. Using a new card like Muster for Battle or some Echoing Oozes might buff him to 8/7, but even then he can be silenced back to a 1/7 relatively easily. Silences have become much more common in the Deathrattle meta, so an already prevalent tool can render this Legendary obsolete too easily.
Fel Reaver - Warlock
If you play this card, you better be counting on finishing your opponent fast. If they have any way to neuter its attack, like hiding behind a Taunt or with an Aldor Peacekeeper, you've almost certainly lost the game. Your opponent can just keep playing cards, junking three of yours at a time. You'll lose almost all of your tools needed to win, and be plummeting towards a fatigue death as well. I do look forward to the hilarious match-up of this versus a Miracle Rogue, though.
Anima Golem - Warlock
Warlocks tend to get great stats for the mana, but at a steep price. A 9/9 on the board sounds amazing for only 6 Mana, but this little Mech apparently just can't stand being alone. That means to defeat it, your opponent doesn't even have to target it. It can just target everything else and watch it self-destruct. Your best hope of keeping it on the board is having a full slate of minions from a Zoo deck, but then you run the risk of a board wipe that takes this bruiser out as well.
Clockwork Giant - Neutral
Clockwork Giant is a great card, but for such a specific type of opponent that he's almost useless. It's clearly meant as a counter for Handlock, the Warlock type that fills its hand with cards to get better effects for certain Giants and the Twilight Drake. Even in that light, though, you wouldn't be able to start playing this card until turn 3 or 4, when your Handlock opponent will have a card to counter it. More likely you'll be facing off against normal opponents with four or five cards in hand at most, which makes its stats vanilla. Worse yet, you could face against a Zoo deck that makes Clockwork Giant a dead card. He's the perfect counter to one specific sub-type of one specific class, and that makes him too situational.
One-Eyed Cheat - Neutral
Arr, me mateys! Blizzard be lookin' to make Pirates a viable deck type! The One-Eyed Cheat has pretty awful stats, since just about anything with one health can be dealt with easily. But by synergizing it with other Pirate cards, it may just work out well. If you have enough Pirates, you could keep giving it Stealth and using it to consistently deliver four damage to your opponent's face. It's hard to say if Pirate decks will actually be all the rage, but we're sure to see some players at least trying to make it work.
Illuminator - Neutral
More Secret synergy! Illuminator has a pretty solid body for the cost, but the card effect makes it stand out. Restoring four Health per turn is a pretty massive effect if you can keep her alive. Hiding her behind a Taunt, with a Secret that will take a while to trigger, means you should get plenty of life effect out of it. If you pair it with the Mage's Ice Block, you'll be protected from fatal damage, and constantly healing to make it harder for you to even reach that point.
Kezan Mystic - Neutral
The Mad Scientist has made Secret-based decks much more common, and the Kezan Mystic looks to mix that up. Its stats are decent for the cost, but more interesting is the effect. Hunters won't be the only ones who can counter Secrets anymore, and better yet, you get to steal it. That does somewhat diminish it as a "secret," of course. Your opponent will know exactly what it is. But they'll still be forced to make sub-optimal plays around it.
Jeeves - Neutral
What a polite little robot. Cards that benefit both players tend to be too steep and situational for real play, but Jeeves might prove different. Since he only assures that both players have three cards in hand, he's a perfect fit for rush or zoo decks in standard match-ups. Your opponent will almost certainly have more than three cards anyway, and Jeeves will keep making sure yours gets refilled as long as he's on the board. It may even make zoo more viable for classes other than Warlock, since the card-draw Hero Power is what really defines that play style.
Wee Spellstopper - Mage
This little gnome isn't much of a threat on her own, but she can make for quite a headache. If you pair her with a big threat, you effectively remove your opponent's ability to perform hard counters. Almost every hard counter in the game is a spell, so players will have to deal with the Spellstopper before they can get rid of the actual threat. It could make late-game Mages with big minions more viable, as opposed to now when Mages rely mostly on mid-range minions and spells.
Tree of Life - Druid
This is a big cost for a big effect, and likely to only be useful in very specific scenarios. However, it essentially resets the playfield, which works well for Druid in longer games. Since the Ramp Druid relies on getting out ahead of your opponents with big minions before they can play them, you run the risk of not defeating them in time. Once you're both at 10 Mana, all that work put into ramping up is wasted. If you're starting to lag behind at that point, the Tree of Life gives you a board reset, hopefully while you still have more minions in-hand than your opponent.
Steve Watts posted a new article, Hearthstone's Goblins vs Gnomes: Winners, Losers, and Oddballs
feels like they really upped the art budget/quality on some of these cards, some nice looking stuff
About the recombobulator, you say "Alternatively, you could play a card with a Deathrattle drawback". Actually that doesn't sound right... transforming doesn't usually trigger deathrattles, or battlecries for that matter.