Breaking Down Hearthstone's Old Gods Cards (Part 8)

As Hearthstone's next big expansion inches ominously close, we take a look at the last of the class cards coming next week.

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Hearthstone next big expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, will be wrapping its tendrils around the community tomorrow! We're working feverishly to finish up all of our card evaluations before launch day, and today we take a big chunk out of it with a look at all the remaining class cards. While you wait to hear the rest of our evaluations, check out all of the revealed cards

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7


(1) Bladed Cultist (1/2)

Combo: Gain +1/+1.

A one-mana card that's unlikely to see much play on turn one, Bladed Cultist is an easy way to add a little extra value to your deck. Its combo effect essentially makes it Zombie Chow stats without the drawback, but it really seems engineered to put a little extra power on the board when you were going to float a mana anyway. That makes it ideal for tempo decks, which Rogue hasn't historically had much of a home for. Rogues tend to be the most gimmick-driven of all Hearthstone win conditions, so it's interesting to see Blizzard pushing it toward a more stable foundation.

Designer Ben Brode pointed out that if you have the coin and two Bladed Cultists in your hand, you could open your first turn with two 2/3s on the board. But honestly, how often will that happen?


(9) Blade of C'Thun (4/4)

Battlecry: Destroy a minion. Add its Attack and Health to C'Thun's (wherever it is).

Priests historically have the best removal in the game, since Mind Control and Entomb effectively remove minions and make them work for you. That threat, in which playing a strong minion becomes a liability, is incredibly powerful. Now Rogue has its own version. At worst Blade of C'Thun is an Assassinate and a vanilla 4/4 rolled into one card for a decent cost. At best, it helps secure your win condition, as that beefy Molten Giant or Kraken not only got destroyed, but boosted your C'Thun to absurd levels.

In fact, the stream that revealed this card actually showed off the nightmare scenario. Blade of C'Thun was used to kill an opponent's C'Thun, giving it all of those stats plus the ones it had already gained. Needless to say, the Rogue won the match.


(4) Bloodhoof Brave (2/6)

Taunt. Enrage: +3 Attack.

And here you almost forgot that Blizzard keeps trying to make Taunt Warrior a thing. Bloodhoof Brave is a pretty decent attempt, since most minions can't easily deal with six damage on turn 4 or 5. That makes Bloodhoof likely to take out two minions itself, and that kind of value is hard to argue.

The problem with Taunt Warrior is, as it's always been, that Taunts are inherently about prolonging a match, and Warriors don't struggle with that anyway. Taunt minions just fill the deck with slots that could be used for removal or win conditions. We may hit a critical mass of Taunts where the deck type becomes viable, and if so, Bloodhoof is a good choice.


(3) Bloodsail Cultist (3/4)

Battlecry: If you control a Pirate, give your weapon +1/+1.

Another attempted deck type for Warriors, the Pirate Warrior appears to be getting another good try this time too. Bloodsail Cultist offers a good statline with a really powerful effect, but it's hard to see how the Warrior would have a pirate on the board at this point in the game. If you played a Pirate on turn one, it's probably dead by now. if you played one on turn two, where's your weapon?

Your best bet is to coin out your Fiery War Axe on turn one, and use it to protect a Pirate on turn two, and then play the Bloodsail Cultist for the weapon value. But that's a lot to count on going right for it to get its full value.


(1) Blood to Ichor

Spell: Deal 1 damage to a minion. If it survives, summon a 2/2 Slime.

This is a card much more likely to fit neatly into the standard Control Warrior deck type. Warriors are always looking for ways to activate their Execute, but usually have to sacrifice a buff card like Cruel Taskmaster to get the job done. Blood to Ichor is one mana cheaper, lacks the buff effect, but similar leaves you with a 2/2 body. It's a little less versatile than Cruel Taskmaster, but the cost--as well as the ability to save your Taskmaster for Grommash--make it a worthwhile inclusion.


(5) Darkshire Alchemist (4/5)

Battlecry: Restore 5 Health. 

It's nice to see Priest getting more healing options, but this one isn't very exciting. It's essentially a Chillwind Yeti plus a Flash Heal, without any cost reduction. It's true that combining two cards makes them more valuable, but in the case of healing, it also limits your options. To make the cost worthwhile, you really need to play Darkshire Alchemist on a turn that you really need the healing, or else you might as well have played a Chillwind Yeti for cheaper. It's possible this could server as heavy burst or removal for an anti-healing deck, but at five mana it's too expensive to combine well either.


(3) Darkshire Councilman (1/5)

After you summon a minion, gain +1 Attack.

Oh hey, it's Reliquary Seeker in reverse! While a 1/5 for 3 mana is technically fine stats, its low attack makes it essentially useless since it can be so easily cleared. But, as Knife Juggler has shown, summoning minions is the most common way to boost an effect, and it can quickly get out of hand. It's also worth noting that the text says "summon" instead of "play," so a burst of Imp-losion (in Wild) would give him multiple pings, just like the Juggler.

So does it see play? Maybe as a one-off in heavy Zoo decks that need something more powerful around to deal with bigger threats in the late game. It could realistically get up to a 5/5 in such a deck, hence the comparison to Reliquary Seeker. But in a world where you can often play an 8/8 Sea Giant for free in Zoo decks, a 5/5 for 3 just doesn't look that impressive.


(2) Darkshire Librarian (3/2)

Battlecry: Discard a random card. Deathrattle: Draw a card.

This is a neat card design with merely so-so stats. A two mana 3/2 is nothing special, but the Deathrattle effect would give it an insane amount of value. To counteract it, it has a Discard effect as its Battlecry, which effectively means you can use it to cycle out a bad card and cycle in a good one. Plus, it could synergize with the handful of cards that rely on discards, though they haven't regularly seen play.

However, Warlock already has a card draw in the form of its Hero Power, and that doesn't force you to discard in the process or wait for a Deathrattle to trigger. It's nice that Blizzard is making these cards that are a gamble by giving a negative cost up-front for a potential pay-off later, but Warlock doesn't need this pay-off. If you can save it for an empty hand, though, you get the upside without the downside.


(2) Eternal Sentinel (3/2)

Battlecry: Unlock your Overloaded Mana Crystals.

The Shaman spell Lava Shock got a lot of attention before release, because unlocking Overload was such a powerful effect. But in practice it never really found its footing outside of some aggro decks, because 2 mana for 2 damage just isn't a very good value. In the end the unlocking effect wasn't enough.

Eternal Sentinel, on the other hand,  performs the same effect, for the same mana cost, and leaves a 3/2 body on the board. Minions are usually more valuable than spells, since they can attack multiple times, get buffed, and trade with other minions. Among the various great Shaman cards coming in this set, this is bound to be a staple in any deck that includes Overload.


(1) Evolve

Transform your minions into random minions that cost (1) more.

Speaking of powerful Shaman effects, this one practically feels like cheating. We valued the upcoming Master of Evolution for having this effect on one random minion. Evolve lets you do it to your entire board at once, for one mana. If you have even two minions on the board, it's getting you twice the value of the mana cost. If you have three or more the value goes up exponentially. Plus, the ability serves as a de facto heal, since you can attack with your field of minions and then transform them into other ones with full health. This is an early prediction for most likely nerf from Whispers of the Old Gods.


(4) Flamewreathed Faceless (7/7)

Overload: (2)

Shaman has specialized in investing in mana for a big minion and then going into mana "debt" to pay on the next turn, and that special wrinkle hasn't always worked out very well for it. Flamewreathed Faceless bears a lot in common with Earth Elemental, which effectively costs two more (1 regular cost, 1 Overload) for another health stat and Taunt. 

There is reason to believe this one will succeed where Earth Elemental hasn't, though. For one, the nerf to Big Game Hunter means players will have to be a lot more selective with their targets. Perhaps more importantly, Eternal Sentinel means that in your next overloaded turn you can get a 3/2 body, unlock two crystals, and have three mana to play another minion as well. 

One thing to remember, though, is that Flamewreathed Faceless is actually anti-synergy for Master of Evolution and Evolve, since its evolved form will almost certainly be weaker than the base stats. You probably won't want to use both in the same deck, and those evolution effects are so powerful they're likely to be much more appealing.


(0) Forbidden Ritual

Spell: Spend all your Mana. Summon that many 1/1 Tentacles.

In case there was any doubt that this expansion would favor Zoo-style Warlock decks, we have this nice gift. The nature of it makes it pointless to spend more than 7 mana at most, but it synergizes well with others like the aforementioned Darkshire Councilman and Sea Giant. 

What's strange is that the Forbidden spells tend to be less powerful than their more specifically constructed counterparts. The Mage spell, for example, deals damage equivalent to Mana spent, which is less efficient than a standard spell like Fireball. But with the existence of Stand Against Darkness, which gives 5 1/1s for 5, Forbidden Ritual is a strictly better card. That creates a strange disparity between the valuations of classes. 


(4) Hooded Acolyte (3/6)

Whenever a character is healed, give your C'Thun +1/+1 (wherever it is).

Priests have always had great control but lacked a strong finisher. C'Thun promises to be an all-purpose finisher that can fit into any deck, but this Priest tool makes it a powerful pick for the class. At 3/6 in stats, it will be hard to take down immediately, so Priests will likely be able to get two or maybe even three turns worth of healing buffs. Or, similar to gaining huge card draw with Northshire Cleric, you could save your Hooded Acolyte for a damaged board and then use Circle of Healing to gain huge buffs all at once. Combine this with Wild Pyromancer to damage everything, heal, damage again, and heal again. 


(1) Journey Below

Discover a Deathrattle card.

This Rogue spell seems engineered to pair with N'Zoth, The Corruptor, the Old God Legendary that resummons all of your Deathrattle minions. Its specialized Discover mechanic narrows down your options, and though it'll probably be stronger in Wild, we've seen enough new Deathrattle cards coming from the Whispers set to make it worthwhile.

So why put this in your deck, spending a slot that could easily be used by a particular Deathrattle minion? Because as a spell, it combines with many common Rogue tools, and at one mana, it enables combos. That gives it a dual purpose: keeping the tempo going during the early game, while prepping for your big finisher. Great all-around card.


(7) Malkorok (6/5)

Battlecry: Equip a random weapon. 

Warriors this time are getting a new Legendary that's honestly pretty questionable. Blingtron never saw much play because, fun as its effect was, it could lead to nightmare scenarios like giving you a Cursed Blade and your opponent a Gorehowl. Making that effect one-sided is definitely stronger, but Warriors already excel at weapon use. More importantly, when a Warrior equips a weapon, it's usually selected for a specific purpose: to do precise damage, or to set up a combo, etc. Equipping a random weapon will mean whatever you draw may not fulfill the purpose you need it for.

All that said, a 6/5 body isn't awful, and the possibility that you can help clear with your weapon to keep him safe for a turn could make this viable. For about 1.5 worth of Mana value you get a weapon that on average would cost 2-4, so that's a good value.


(5) Power Word: Tentacles

Spell: Give a minion +2/+6.

Not the most creative card, this is basically an amped-up version of Velen's Chosen. With that card retiring from Standard, you're trading two more mana for an additional two health and the loss of a Spell Damage boost. Spell Damage hasn't been that effective in Priest decks, since it really matters most for AOE and a 2-damage board clear is almost functionally identical to a 3-damage one. So those two extra Mana are being well-spent on health, which is much more advantageous to Priest.

However, five Mana is a big investment. That may be a difficult value proposition, which means Priest decks that lean hard into this Power Word are going to want to keep plenty of big healing tools to keep their minions on the board. This card will get better the longer you can use it to keep making trades.


(1) Primal Fusion

Give a minion +1/+1 for each of your Totems.

Shaman has become an embarrassment of riches with this expansion, because its cards support so many deck types. We already have a viable Aggro Shaman in the meta, some cards are primed to make a powerful Tempo Shaman, some new Overload cards can make an Overload Shaman, and here we have a nice cheap tool for Totem Shaman.

Totems got a bit stronger in the League of Explorers, but not quite enough to push it to the forefront. With a utility tool like Primal Fusion, though, it may become another solid mid-range option. Many of the totems themselves create special effects, so you'll get that value plus a stat boost when you need it.


(3) Shadow Strike

Deal 5 damage to an undamaged character.

Rogue already has some solid removal tools, and this one adds another cheap option. When a three-Mana spell can easily deal with most 4- and 5-mana minions, you have a good value on your hands. Even larger minions could be taken down with a combination of Shadow Strike and SI:7 Agent or a weapon. This card isn't very versatile--though it does say "character" which could mean the opponent's Hero--but it essentially adds three damage for 3 Mana to the common Backstab. 


(4) Southsea Squidface (4/4)

Deathrattle: Give your weapon +2 Attack. 

Somehow Davy Jones found his way into Hearthstone. Southsea Squidface passes the vanilla test, and it has a powerful effect that could really make a difference for Rogues. At four mana, it curves perfectly into Assassin's Blade, giving you a potential whopping 5/4 weapon after using Squidface for enemy removal. That's without counting extra damage from Deadly Poison, or a weapon boost you may have already gotten from Buccaneer. No wonder Blizzard nerfed Blade Fury.

Plus, the Pirate tribal gives it potential synergy. We say potential because Pirate decks have never really taken hold, and it remains to be seen if the increase in Pirate tools is enough to make it a real deck type this time.


(2) Stormcrack

Deal 4 damage to a minion (Overload: 1)

And wouldn't you know it, yet another solid Shaman Overload tool. Stormcrack is essentially 4 damage for 3 mana, which is a decent deal on its own. Combined with other cards that are buffed by Overload, and Eternal Sentinel to unlock your Mana crystals, it can become downright ridiculous.

It doesn't have quite the damage potential of a Crackle for the same cost, and in fact at four damage it's on the lower end of the Crackle spectrum. But the halfway point would be 4.5 damage, which doesn't exist, and the ability to count on the exact damage amount is worth an extra half-point.


(5) Twilight Darkmender (6/5)

If your C'Thun has at least 10 Attack, restore 10 health to your Hero.

Despite the Mana cost, this is a late-game play. Playing a 5-mana 6/5 vanilla would be alright on-curve, but you really want to save your Darkmender for when it activates thanks to your C'Thun, and getting it all the way up to 10 Attack by turn five will be a rarity. It's possible with Hooded Acolyte, but you can't always count on that. Not to mention, you probably won't need a full 10 health so early in the game, so you may as well save it for when you can get the full value.

Later in the game, it's a powerful play. You essentially get an Antique Healbot with better healing and better stats for the same cost. 


(5) Usher of Souls (5/6)

Now this is an interesting card. While some of the Warlock tools have been very centered on Zoo decks or the new C'Thun decks, Usher of Souls is a perfect tool to be used in some hybrid of both. You can flood your board with small minions, play Usher of Souls to trade them all for C'Thun value, and then count on the Old God as your finisher. 

It's sort of like the neutral Cult Master, in which you trade your minions for value. This is a more long-term play, though, since you're not getting the immediate value of card draw, and instead going for the late-game value of C'Thun. For that trade-off, it's much better stats at-cost, and would even be okay to play as a vanilla card. At the very least it's a de facto Taunt card, because your opponent will always want to make sure they kill Usher of Souls before anything else.

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