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Hearthstone's Year of the Kraken: The Big Winners

With Hearthstone set to introduce Standard mode, the meta is about to undergo a seismic shift. Today, Shacknews takes a look at the cards that are left standing and looks at which of those cards are poised to gain the most from this change.


Earlier this week, Blizzard revealed its big plan for Hearthstone moving forward. While a Wild option will be available as a free-for-all for all of the game's cards, there will also be a new Standard game mode. This is not only meant to be more welcoming to newcomers, but is also meant to shake up the game's competitive element going forward. Competitive tournaments will only be conducted in Standard play, which is bound to mean a seismic shift in Hearthstone's meta.

Steve Watts and I already analyzed the big-time Hearthstone staples that will be missed the most. We also went over the ripple effect that the loss of Goblins vs. Gnomes and Curse of Naxxramas will have on other cards that are still playable, analyzing the biggest losers of the remaining cards. But if those are the loseres, then who are the winners? Let's discuss that today, as Shacknews breaks down the biggest winners as Blizzard prepares to launch the Year of the Kraken.

Auchenai Soulpriest

Several classes took some major hits with the switch to Standard and the Priest is among them. Lightbomb is an absolutely devastating loss, since it was one of the Priest's lone board clearing options. Holy Nova doesn't have the firepower to wipe out numerous minions, since its 2 damage will leave many of them standing. Excavated Evil might help, but putting a copy of that spell into your opponent's hand is a nasty drawback.

That's where a classic combination comes in. Auchenai Soulpriest can still deal some heavy damage on its own, but combined with Circle of Healing, it has the potential to clear the board completely. It even has some new toys to play with, since players could use Flash Heal to deal a quick 5 damage in a pinch. Auchenai Soulpriest was already a common sight in Priest decks, but without Lightbomb, it now becomes essential.

Coldlight Oracle

Another class that's set to be rocked heavily with the switch to Standard is the Rogue. Without Tinker's Sharpsword Oil, the Oil Rogue is on life support and it's unlikely that it'll become a viable deck again. Something needs to fill the void and that something is likely to become the Mill Rogue. So say hello to Coldlight Oracle. If you play against Rogue, you might be seeing this Murloc an awful lot.

The Mill Rogue has been present in Hearhstone since the game's inception, especially since it plays so well with Shadowstep. What's made Mill an even more viable strategy for Rogues in recent months has been the addition of Gang Up and Brann Bronzebeard, which increased the number of Coldlight Oracles and amplifies their effects, respectively.

There is one drawback to the Mill Rogue strategy, though, and that's the loss of Antique Healbot to counteract any potential fatigue or prolong the game. That makes Mill strategies a riskier proposition, but nonetheless, don't be surprised to see Coldlight Oracle usage on the rise.

Cairne Bloodhoof

This is a legendary that's fallen by the wayside somewhat in the last year or so. That's because the three major Deathrattle Mechs (Piloted Shredder, Piloted Sky Golem, Sneed's Old Shredder) were great replacements. Even if their Deathrattle drops were random, they still had synergy with many of the Mech-enhancing cards. But not only are these mechs gone now, so is pretty much every other mech in the game.

That means there's a big void that needs to be filled and Cairne Bloodhoof might be the minion to do it. It's also a nice reminder that his Deathrattle effect drops a reliable 4/5 minion, essentially requiring this guy to be killed twice. There aren't a lot of minions out there that will reliably drop some reliable backup, so Cairne is suddenly at a premium again and might turn up in more than a couple of decks. Shaman, in particular, might be able to pair him with Ancestral Spirit to keep the Bloodhoof family reunion going.


The loss of Duplicate is a painful one, especially for Mages that liked to spread the love of Flamewaker around. The closest replacement to this Mage Secret will be Effigy, which can be a valuable play in the later stages of the game. Played alongside Archmage Antonidas or Rhonin, Effigy could be extremely helpful by planting a high-value minion on the board.

With all that said, even Effigy is a hard card to argue for, because some are making the case that Secrets, in general, have become less viable with the removal of Mad Scientist. That's certainly fair, but Kirin Tor Mage still justifies having a couple of Secrets in your deck, including Effigy.

Gadgetzan Jouster

The loss of Zombie Chow is rough, since it was a solid early play card that could keep aggro decks under control. A replacement won't be easy to find, but here's one that might start to see more play. Gadgetzan Jouster has a chance to fill this hole.

But that's the key word, isn't it? A chance! That's because whether it reaches 2/3 stats ultimately depends on the luck of the draw. However, if you're running a Warrior deck filled with legendaries, you might have a good shot. That's especially true if low-cost aggro decks and zoos start to frequent the meta again. Gadgetzan Jouster isn't the perfect replacement, but of all the 1-mana minions, it comes the closest to reaching Zombie Chow's stats.

Healing Wave

The loss of Antique Healbot is going to affect a lot of classes in different ways, but its loss means that they all need to find new, reliable ways to recover health. This becomes especially essential to the Shaman, because he's also losing Vitality Totem, which was one of his precious few options for restoring health against pesky aggro decks.

That means Healing Wave becomes more valuable than ever. If the Shaman finds himself taking heavy damage, especially if he's trading blows with minions using Doomhammer or Charged Hammer, he's going to need to get back into the game. While Healing Wave doesn't offer the benefit of a 3/3 minion, at worst it's 7 health for a cheap 3 mana. This is absolutely worth keeping around, especially since the aforementioned rise of aggro decks means a Shaman will win the card duel more often than not and end up with 14 health coming back.


Some minions are meant to be hard counters to others that have run wild. So without Loatheb to keep it in check, expect Malygos to unleash his magical fury, once again. Loatheb's effect would often reign Malygos in, forcing opponents to keep it contained since magic would become too expensive to use. Without Loatheb, though, a new enticing option is presented to the Rogue.

See, the Rogue is looking for a replacement strategy now that Tinker's Sharpsword Oil is out of play. With Malygos now free to spread terror across Hearthstone, a number of intriguing new options arise. Malygos turns Sinister Strike and Eviscerate into insanely powerful blows. And if any of those costs are made cheaper by Preparation or Emperor Thaurissan, Rogues have the potential to do well over 20 damage in a single turn. The Maly Rogue may very well be on the rise when Standard arrives, so start preparing counters now.

Anything in your current deck that could potentially become a lot more powerful with the switch to Standard? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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