Hearthstone next big expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, will be wrapping its tendrils around the community in less than a month now. There's still plenty to be revealed in the meantime! To keep pace leading up to the launch, we're taking a fresh look at all the new card reveals every Friday.
(10) Deathwing, Dragonlord (12/12)
Deathrattle: Put all Dragons from your hand into the Battlefield.
Until the arrival of the Old Gods, Deathwing was the biggest minion in Hearthstone. Not to be outdone by his Eldritch colleagues, this new version of Deathwing packs a huge punch and synergizes well with Dragon decks. The previous Deathwing would destroy all minions and discard your hand upon entering the battlefield, making it best for late-game play after your opponent had played nearly all of their cards. That made it a fine finisher, but it hasn't seen serious play in most decks.
Dragonlord just might, because it encourages an earlier play. At 10 mana it's still in the late-game, but you won't feel as compelled to save it for when the match is almost over as a finishing blow. Instead, it's best to play it as soon as you hit turn 10.
Deathwing does come with a few drawbacks, however. At 10 mana, it comes after all of your other dragons and its Deathrattle actively discourages playing them to get its fullest value. Plus, any dragons played by Deathwing will not trigger their own Battlecries, and many of the best dragons come with big Battlecry effects. However, it's a minion that's scary for your opponent to remove, because it may mean putting two or more 8/8s on the board, or a 4/12 Ysera. Expect it to become a staple if Dragon decks remain viable.
(4) Demented Frostcaller (2/4)
After you cast a spell, freeze a random enemy character.
This is a powerful card that's hard to find a home for. The two points in lost stats should make up for themselves with a powerful effect, especially if paired with cheap spells like Mirror Image or the Coin. Blizzard has already confirmed that its freezing effect will be smart enough to avoid re-freezing an enemy that's already frozen, so if you cast two spells on a board with two enemies, you can be assured that both of them will get frozen.
However, freezing is generally a stalling tactic, not a game-winning one. Mage already has plenty of board-wide freezing options, to the point that the Freeze Mage archtype doesn't actually use most of them. And to play the Frostcaller effectively, you'd have to play it on turn five or six, when the tempo sacrifice is even more pronounced. It's a neat card design, but unlikely for competitive play. Though, given some of the powerful other Mage cards in this set, maybe that's for the best.
(6) Faceless Summoner (5/5)
Battlecry: Summon a random 3-Cost minion.
Ah, here we go. Mage is getting a nice treat with one of the strongest standalone minions we've seen from the expansion to date. A 3-cost minion will have roughly 3/3 in stats on the low end, which means at minimum you're going to get 8/8 in stats spread across two bodies. Factor in that many 3-mana minions are actually 3/4s or 4/3s, and that some have bonus effects like Taunt, and it's an absurd level of value.
Not only that, but it being a Battlecry means you can combo it with cards like Brann Bronzebeard or Youthful Brewmaster to get even more value. If you're playing in Wild, you can use the Recombobulator to get a likely stronger 6-mana minion. And best of all, being targeted at the Mage class means Blizzard is seeing to one of the class' weaknesses. Mages usually rely mostly on strong neutral minions alongside their own spells, and haven't had many strong class minions to call their own. Faceless Summoner is a must-have.
(2) Embrace the Shadow
Spell: This turn, your healing effects deal damage instead.
This is a fine, if unexciting, utility card for Priests. It replicates the effect of Cabal Shadow Priest, but as a cheaper one-time spell instead of a continuous minion effect. This comes with its own advantages and drawbacks, the most obvious of which is that paired with Circle of Healing, it becomes a huge removal effect costing only 2-mana. Pairing with Cabal Shadow Priest would achieve the same goal for three more mana, but leave you with a damaged 3/1 on the board.
Not to mention, Cabal's continuous effect can sometimes be a detriment. Your opponent might intentionally keep it on the board to keep you from healing yourself or your other minions. Embrace the Shadow gives you a little more flexibility to only use for a brief period when you really need it for removal or as a finisher. It's likely to see play, but it's nothing all that new and different.
(3) Forlorn Stalker (4/2)
Battlecry: Give all your minions with Deathrattle in your hand +1/+1.
In an expansion that has so far seemed aimed at giving Hunters more late-game tools, this is a decent mid-game tempo card that continues tying Hunters to the Deathrattle effect. Its ability can be compared to the Shaman Legendary card, The Mistcaller. It has better baseline stats than Mistcaller, so you're not making as much of a sacrifice in tempo to play it. Unlike the Mistcaller, though, it only impacts a certain type of minion, and only the ones that happen to be in your hand to boot.
With Naxxramas on the way out, many of the best Deathrattle staples will be retiring from Standard. It remains to be seen if the new Deathrattle cards fill the gap, but there's reason to believe this will play well in a deck with N'Zoth, The Corrupter, since you'll want to lean into Deathrattle cards anyway.
(1) Possessed Villager (1/1)
Deathrattle: Summon a 1/1 Shadowbeast.
This creepy little Warlock madman is going to be an auto-include in Standard Zoo decks, which are going to be missing some staples like Nerubian Egg and Haunted Creeper. A 1-mana 1/1 is thoroughly unexciting, but the Deathrattle basically makes it replicate itself once. It's sort of like a miniaturized Dreadsteed.
This plays well with the Warlock tendency to buff small minions with effects and then charge them into bigger ones. Pair it with Power Overwhelming, and it's a 2-mana 5/5 that can take care of a much bigger minion and then still leave another body behind. That's a good value. Plus, look at him. He's so happy!
(5) Servant of Yogg-Saron (5/4)
Battlecry: Cast a random spell that costs (5) or less (targets chosen randomly).
After I gave an extended rant about how Yogg-Saron is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad card last week, his Servant is here to show us that a more moderate version with less of a stat deficit can be... okay. I still hesitate to call it a good card or predict it will be included in many decks, but a 5-mana 5/4 is only missing one stat point from vanilla, and the number-crunching streamer Trump (who revealed the card) found it will have at least a so-so effect about 2/3 of the time. Your chances of a good effect go up if you play it while your opponent has minions out and you don't, making it a good catch-up tool.
There will be times you cast Blessing of Kings on your opponent, and you'll be sad. But unlike Yogg-Saron, you won't be investing a weak, 10-mana minion into it and sacrificing massive amounts of tempo in the process. At 5 mana, the Servant of Yogg-Saron will probably get you a good effect, but won't set you so far behind if the randomness doesn't go your way.
(5) Shadowcaster (4/4)
Battlecry: Choose a friendly minion. Add a 1/1 copy to your hand that costs (1).
If Faceless Summoner above is the best minion of the set we've seen so far, Shadowcaster is a close second tempered only by its need for combos. It is still an extremely powerful card. Its ability to make a small token version of an existing minion plays well with just about every special effect, from Deathrattles to Battlecries to (in a pinch) Taunts. Its stats are comparable to Azure Drake, a solid and fairly commonly-used card that draws a card. Shadowcaster acts similarly, but it essentially lets you choose what card to draw, and reduces its cost to 1.
As usual with Rogue, the best players will figure out how to use Shadowcaster for its combo potential. Getting a cheap version of a effect-driven minion that opponents tend to remove immediately means you can play it and whatever other combos it needs in the same turn, preventing your opponent from throwing a wrench in your plans. And given the Rogue's ability to gather up coins, it's entirely conceivable that combos like a cheap Brann Bronzebeard from Shadowcaster could be played, followed by a Coin, and then C'Thun for double the effect. Ouch.
(4) Shifting Shade (4/3)
Deathrattle: Copy a card from your opponent's deck and add it to your hand.
As a general rule, cards that combine into one single card can be incredibly valuable. You're saving yourself a deck slot, and usually getting extra value for the mana cost as well. Shifting Shade combines a slightly weak-for-the-cost minion with a half of a Thoughtsteal. Thoughtsteal costs 3 mana, so half its effect can be evaluated at 1.5, which makes up for the Shifting Shade stat deficit by itself. The Deathrattle effect, which synergizes with cards like N'Zoth, makes it better still.
One of the most pervasive problems with the Priest class is that it's entirely too responsive. It specializes in turning the tables on your opponent with cards like Mind Control, Entomb, Thoughtsteal, and Mind Vision. That passive playstyle can be powerful under the right circumstances, but it also makes you very dependent on waiting for your opponent to make strong plays of their own. A card like Shifting Shade, which lets you put out some board presence and still includes a little of that responsive design as well, may just be very powerful.
(9) Soggoth the Slitherer (5/9)
Taunt. Can't be targeted by spells or Hero Powers.
Soggoth is a strange card, because it can be compared very directly to another one. Captured Jormunger has the exact same stats for two less mana. So is two mana worth a Taunt and the oddly non-keyworded "Can't be targeted by spells or Hero Powers"? Well, historically, no.
If accounting for vanilla stats, a Taunt is usually worth approximately one mana. Soggoth's other effect, which has been unofficially nicknamed "Elusive" by the Hearthstone community, tends to be valued at almost zero mana. Faerie Dragon and Spectral Knight both have fine vanilla stats for their cost without the Elusive effect. It's possible that Blizzard concluded that the Taunt and Elusive effects combine to be something greater than the sum of their parts, but that doesn't square with the cost associated with Arcane Nullifier. In short, it's just too slow to provide a good value for its cost.
(6) Thistle Tea
Spell: Draw a card. Add 2 extra copies of it to your hand.
This Rogue spell is a hard card to evaluate, because it's most comparable to another card that isn't in play yet. The upcoming Mage card Cabalist's Tome similarly adds more cards to your hand, letting you play more cards than the standard 30-card deck allows to win in the long-term. It's even costed similarly--6 mana to draw three copies of a single card versus 5 mana for three totally random spells.
How good Thistle Tea is will depend on the quality of your draw, and to be fair, you can control it slightly more than Cabalist's Tome. By the time you can use it on turn six, you'll basically know the 1/20 odds of what's left in your deck, so it's not entirely random. However, you're sacrificing a mid-game turn entirely for the effect, and that may sacrifice too much tempo to recover. If the meta continues to slow it could be fine for a late-game play to outpace your opponent, though.
(4) Twilight Summoner (1/1)
Deathrattle: Summon a 5/5 Faceless Destroyer.
A neutral option to replace Nerubian Egg, the Twilight Summoner is in a difficult spot. At four mana, it's a poor turn-four play, since your opponent can just avoid it for a turn while it puts out bigger or more minions to deal with the threat of the Faceless Destroyer. It also makes a rough late-game play when you may be able to combine it with other cards, since by then your opponent can deal with it.
That said, it is a good anti-AOE card, since having it on the board means your opponent can't clear it entirely. It could also be used with buffs like Power Overwhelming, similar to the Possessed Villager above, to make it a beefy minion that leaves behind another one.
(7) Wisps of the Old Gods
Choose One - Summon 7 1/1 Wisps; or Give your minions +2/+2.
Blizzard sure loves its Wisp puns. This is a bad card, only conceivably redeemable by speculation that Druids are going to get some form of Wisp synergy with another spell or minion that has yet to be revealed.
The Choose One effect can be powerful, but neither of these effects are very good. Summoning 7 Wisps fills your board with weak minions, but so does Onyxia. For only two more mana, that minion has Dragon synergy, and puts an 8/8 body on the board alongside six 1/1s. The +2/+2 effect is a Choose One option for Cenarius, the Druid Legendary, but Cenarius is hardly ever run in Druid decks. And when it is run, players tend to choose its more useful Taunt-producing ability, because the +2/+2 effect is only helpful as a finisher when you already have a full board. That makes it a "win more" card, which don't tend to see competitive play.
This could be a good card if the speculation of some kind of Wisp synergy is true. If not, it's another bad one made primarily for the purposes of the pun.