Hearthstone is making some big changes this spring, by splitting into Standard and Wild formats. In an effort to tamp down the intimidation factor for newer players, Standard will be limited to Classic and Basic cards, along with any released in the current or previous calendar year. Cards will constantly be cycling in and out of Standard play, and for the initial format kick-off that means it will not include any cards from the Curse of Naxxramas adventure or the Goblins vs Gnomes expansion.
This will mark a huge change in Hearthstone. While you'll still be able to play with any cards in Wild format, the official Hearthstone tournament will be all Standard-based. That means expert deck-builders (and the fans who imitate them) will have to do without some reliable staples from Naxxramas and GvG. Staples like...
Zombie Chow has proven an extremely effective tool for control-style decks, along with an important lesson for newcomers about board control. While its enemy-healing effect may seem like too heavy a drawback, a turn-one Zombie Chow could easily contest any other one-drop, and usually make for a two-for-one trade with your opponent's two-drop as well.
Sure, it would heal your opponent, but with the 30 health cap you shouldn't be hitting their face anyway. It was the perfect tool for board control, and plus, paired with the Priest's Auchenai Soulpriest, it could immediately be turned into a shambling time-bomb.
If Hunters weren't starting games with Leper Gnome, they were often starting their game off with an opening Webspinner. On top of setting an opening tempo, Webspinner's effect was a valuable one, feeding into the Hunter's affinity for beasts. The fortunate thing about beasts is that there are few useless ones, but even if Webspinner yielded something like Angry Chicken, it would still play well with something like Houndmaster. Webspinner fit into just about every Hunter deck, whether it's the Face Hunter or Mid-range Hunter, and it's going to be quite a loss for this class. On the other hand, this suddenly makes Ball of Spiders a more palatable option.
Long before Mysterious Challenger shook up the meta-game, Mad Scientist introduced us to the idea of free Secrets value. It was a chance to pair a Secret with a sturdy-for-the-cost minion, and brought Secrets back into play in a big way. He became a particular favorite of the Mage class, since its 3-mana Secrets are the most costly (and powerful) in the game. With a Mad Scientist around, those hefty investments got a considerable price drop. He may be dying, but at least he did it for science.
The smallest of a whole family of Shredders, the 4 mana 4/3 Piloted Shredder was by far the most common. Sneed's Old Shredder may be more flashy with its chance of a Legendary, but the basic Piloted Shredder became the old reliable. While those higher tiers are crowded with Legendaries that offer a bigger effect, the four-mana slot isn't known for having much competition. Its effect offered good stats for the cost, and since it's a Deathrattle, it was resistant to removal spells. Soon this Shredder will pop its last parachute, at least in competitive circles.
This one hurts, especially for Warlocks and Rogues that were willing to sacrifice health for the sake of the right play. Antique Healbot's effect was invaluable, even if its 3/3 stats were mediocre for 5 mana. It often proved a lifesaver, whether it was buying Warlock a few more card draws or putting your hero out of reach of a Mage's lethal Pyroblast. On top of that, Antique Healbot's effect became even more valuable with the introduction of Brann Bronzebeard and his double Battlecries. This is going to feel like a huge loss, because healing with a lesser minion like Earthen Ring Farseer just won't be the same.
Sadly, Loatheb won't be seeing anyone anymore. This Legendary immediately made an impact on the overall meta, not just for its decent 5/5 stats for 5 mana, but for its devastating effect. Under the right circumstances, Loatheb's increased spell cost effect could buy players an extra turn and ward off higher-cost spells, like Pyroblast, Anyfin Can Happen, Force of Nature, Mind Control, and Twisted Nether. It was also another minion that played very well with Brann Bronzebeard and when played together, they'd take spells virtually off the table completely for the next turn. There are precious few reliable spell counters and Loatheb was among the most potent.
Sludge Belcher quickly proved itself as one of the game's most reliable Taunt minions. Prior to its debut, Sen'jin Shieldmasta was the Taunt minion of choice for many players. But Sludge Belcher's deathrattle effect made it extremely valuable, since it would often stop zoo decks and Face Hunters in their tracks. At the very least, its presence necessitated some sort of Silence minion to make it easier to deal with. Sludge Belcher was a great defensive minion and was versatile enough to fit in just about any deck.
There aren't many reliable board clearing plays for Priest, especially since Holy Nova just doesn't do a lot of damage. That's what made Lightbomb such a godsend to Anduin, especially against opponents that liked to go big with high-attack minions. Anyone that got careless and laid down giants or 8/8 legendaries would see everything get wiped off the board with a single Lightbomb and, if used correctly, it would leave some of the Priest's own minions standing, ripe for a Circle of Healing. Without Lightbomb, the most reliable board clear strategy becomes Auchenai Soulpriest and the aforementioned Circle of Healing, but even that can only do so much damage. This is a major loss for Anduin.
In what has become the poster-child for power creep, Dr. Boom immediately exploded onto the scene and became one of the most prevalent must-have Legendary cards. The 7/7 body for 7 mana is nothing special, but he came flanked by two Boom Bots, giving you a pair of extra 1/1 bodies that could each do another 1-4 in random damage. The value was just too good to pass up, and Dr. Boom became an auto-include in just about every kind of high-level competitive deck.
Kel'Thuzad wasn't for everyone, but he's infuriated thousands of Hearthstone players since he first debuted in Curse of Naxxramus. Feel good about yourself after weakening your opponent's three or four minions and laying down a big Sludge Belcher? Bang your head against the table now, because your opponent just played Kel and is now resurrecting those minions completely fresh. What made Kel so devastating was that players could reap all the fruits of a deathrattle effect, while still getting that same minion back to get that deathrattle benefit again later. Skilled players could find fantastically entertaining ways to utilize Kel, especially when combined with Emperor Thaurissan, who could reduce its cost to something more manageable.
Honorable Mention: Spare Parts
More a mechanic than a single card, Spare Parts were one major addition of the Goblins vs Gnomes expansion. And while the effects were nothing special in and of themselves, being classified as 1-mana spells made them a vital tool for Tempo Mage. It paired well with Flamewaker for a quick and easy way to spit out some random damage, and was often the fuel that powered Archmage Antonidas' endless stream of Fireballs.
Steve Watts and Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, 10 Hearthstone Staples About to Go Missing from Standard
Yeah, Naxx and GvG were definitely OP compared to just about any other expansion. Hearthstone needs rotation to stave off power creep and allow a more diverse metagame, I was just hoping it would be a little bit more "DIY"... Maybe it's too much for right now, but wouldn't it be neat to have formats that were user-definable (besides wild).
For instance, I would really enjoy playing "basics only". Sort of a "Pauper" equivalent from Magic. Or, for those of you who played the Decipher LOTR, the best "format" of that game was back when Mines of Moria was released, everything after that was downhill. I suspect Basic + Classic + Naxx (is still fun, after miracle rogue got nerfed).
I think the whole Standard and Wild change is an overall good change. I just wish they didn't make it so that new players can't play the old adventures anymore. Just put them under and old tab and tell them multiple times that they're buying old cards that can only be used in Wild, then that should be find, and is a better alternative then removing them entirely. At least you can craft them now. Any word on if they're crafting costs are going to be cheaper since they'll be "old."
I agree, the adventures were/are a lot of fun. I feel bad for anyone who put all the effort into crafting those scripted sequences, had to take a lot of time and care.