Hearthstone's next expansion, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, is rumbling its way ever closer to release in early December, and we're keeping up with all the card reveals with weekly reviews. Keep in mind this expansion introduces new "Faction" cards, which can be used by any one of three classes. This week was focused mostly on the "Kabal" faction, with some neutral cards peppered in for good measure.
- Grimy Goons: Hunter, Paladin, Warrior (Symbol: Crossed Clubs)
- Kabal: Mage, Priest, Warlock (Symbol: Round Potion Bottle)
- Jade Lotus: Druid, Rogue, Shaman (Symbol: Blossoming Flower)
(7) Abyssal Enforcer (6/6)
Battlecry: Deal 3 damage to all other characters.
The Warlock class doesn't have many big demons, so Abysmal Enforcer actually fills a niche that's gone mostly unoccupied. Functionally, it's very similar to the Dread Infernal, but for one extra Mana cost you get two more in damage from the Battlecry. That essentially makes it a combination of Dread Infernal and the Hellfire spell, which shouldn't be underestimated. It has the potential to wipe out or at least severely wound most minions on the board, leaving a relatively hearty body to deal with as well.
(3) Backstreet Leper (3/1)
Deathrattle: Deal 2 damage to the enemy hero.
The city-dwelling cousin of Leper Gnome is pretty bad. Its one-Mana counterpart has the same Deathrattle effect, which means in this case you're paying two extra Mana for two more in Attack. The one health just makes it too vulnerable for the cost. Even as a 3/2 it would be on the edge of mediocrity, but with only one health it's just plain poor. On the bright side, it's Blizzard, so we're bound to get some kind of "Backstreet's Back" joke in the card text.
(3) Bloodfury Potion
Spell: Give a minion +3 Attack. If it's a Demon, gain +3 Health as well.
This Warlock spell is an interesting design, especially in light of the Kabal Chemist card (below). These new Potion spells are going to be shared and weaved between classes even more than the usual, and this one is built in such a way that's pretty useful for Warlocks, and pretty terrible for anybody else. Most other decks don't run demons regularly, and three Mana for three Attack by itself is a bad trade. Three Mana for 3/3 in stats, on the other hand, is totally reasonable, and especially a good buff for demons that often have overpowered stats due to their drawbacks.
(5) Bomb Squad (2/2)
Battlecry: Deal 5 damage to an enemy minion.
Deathrattle: Deal 5 damage to your hero.
Yowza! That is quite a stat reduction. A 5-Mana 2/2 is one of the worst ratios in Hearthstone, so for the cost you'd expect a huge payoff. This payoff is noticeably lacking, partly because it's already counter-balanced with a powerful Battlecry effect. Combining two big drawbacks to make up for one big Battlecry is a bit much, especially when the game is already rife with minion removal options. The low health just guarantees that you'd get the Deathrattle damage quickly.
(6) Felfire Potion
Spell: Deal 5 damage to all characters.
When you absolutely, positively can't wait two more turns for Twisting Nether. This is a big board clear, or possibly a finisher akin to Ysera Awakens. It makes some sense to give it to Warlock, a class that's accustomed to taking damage, but most of the minions that would benefit from taking damage would also be killed by this potion. It seems mostly useful as a way to wipe out everything when you're overwhelmed, and Warlocks usually don't struggle with those game scenarios, so it may have limited utility in actual play.
(1) Grimscale Chum (2/1)
Battlecry: Give a random Murloc in your hand +1/+1.
The holding mechanic has been randomized in most cards that we've seen, so to increase your chances of hitting a particular minion you'll have to pack lots of spells and few minions, or wait until your hand is mostly empty. A targeted holding buff is different than anything we've seen, but the strength of the effect is mitigated a little by it only applying to Murlocs. Murloc decks aren't really the strongest, and the one that is in common use relies on limiting its Murlocs so that the Anyfin Can Happen spell is consistent. Adding this to the deck breaks that stability, so it's not likely to see much play.
(7) Inkmaster Solia (5/5)
Battlecry: If your deck has no duplicates, the next spell you cast this turn costs (0).
Continuing the tradition from Reno Jackson, the Mage Legendary in this set rewards you for making a deck completely out of unique cards. It obviously takes a stat hit, but the popularity of Firelands Portal has shown that Mages don't mind paying 7-Mana for a big effect paired with a 5-Mana minion. Solia is even more reliable, since you can know her stats and could potentially cast a much bigger spell than simply 5 damage. As long as you can use a spell that costs 3 Mana or greater, you're coming out ahead in the deal. If you pair it with a custom-created 10-Mana spell from the new Legendary Kazakus, the value is absolutely absurd.
(4) Kabal Chemist (3/3)
Battlecry: Add a random Potion to your hand.
This Kabal class card is only as strong as the potions in the set. It's most comparable to the Rogue Legendary Xaril, Poisoned Mind, a 4-Mana 3/2 that gives you a random Toxin. Some of those Toxins are very powerful, and can be particularly potent in Rogue decks that get a lot of benefit from 1-Mana spells. For balance we can expect Potions to be less powerful on the whole, but Mages and Priests, especially, can benefit from having some 1-Mana spells in the mix as well.
(6) Kabal Crystal Runner (5/5)
Costs (2) less for each Secret you've played this game.
The Mage is getting its own version of the Shaman's "Thing From Below," which has quickly become a staple in value-oriented decks. If you play just one secret, the Kabal Crystal Runner becomes a 4-Mana 5/5, which is already a good deal. If you play one or two more Secrets, it becomes super-cheap or even free for the stats. Mages don't usually make much use of minions, but additions like this one that make them valuable based on spells could change that.
(1) Kabal Lackey (2/1)
Battlecry: The next Secret you play this turn costs (0).
Mages boast some of the strongest Secrets, but also the most expensive. Kabal Lackey promises to let them get their Secrets out earlier, and for free, at the cost of being a fairly weak minion itself. It's hard to say just how much utility this will have, though. A lot of the Mage Secrets are best reserved for late game play in very particular situations. There's no real reason you need to Ice Block on turn one, and in the case of others like Effigy, pairing it with Lackey would be a liability. There is some potential for a combination with a card like Archmage Antonidas, though, since it essentially makes for a 1-Mana spell to fuel his power.
(6) Leatherclad Hogleader (6/6)
Battlecry: If your opponent has 6 or more cards in hand, gain Charge.
In one of the stranger bunches of cards in this set, we get a bunch of motorcycle-riding pigs, each built to respond to very particular situations. The Leatherclad Hogleader is the first, seemingly meant to give aggressive decks a little more burst to use if playing against a control-heavy deck. It will do fine in those decks, or if a deck type like Handlock comes back into fashion, but like the other hogs, this is a tech card through and through.
(6) Madam Goya (4/3)
Battlecry: Choose a friendly minion. Swap it with a minion in your deck.
It's hard to imagine a deck where Madam Goya belongs. Functionally, it acts similarly to the pandaran Brewmaster cards, which can save a minion that's in a trouble or bounce it back into your hand to get double the Battlecry effect. In this case, though, the minion goes back into your deck somewhere, so it's not immediately accessible again. It also swaps places with a random minion, which means you could play one you didn't want to or lose a Battlecry effect you were counting on. On top of all that, it has a stat deficit implying a very powerful effect, but its effect is difficult to manage at best. It will make for great highlight videos with some crazy plays, but it won't be very competitive.
(3) Potion of Polymorph
Spell: Secret: After your opponent plays a minion, transform it into a 1/1 Sheep.
The next front in the war on Deathrattle decks is a preemptive step. Potion of Polymorph has the potential to be devastating to big minions, especially the Deathrattle ones like Tirion Fordring or Sylvanas Windrunner. It's less effective against Battlecry minions, since the card text implies the Battlecry effect would still trigger. At the very least, it will force your opponent to make sub-optimal plays in an attempt to have it strike a weaker minion, and that kind of mind-game manipulation is at the heart of Secrets.
Interestingly, if you're a Priest or Warlock who gets this off of the Kabal Chemist, it won't really be a Secret, since this is the only Potion Secret that we know of.
(5) Raza the Chained (5/5)
Battlecry: If your deck has no duplicates, your Hero Power costs (0) this game.
After so much hand-wringing about the Priest being underpowered in the last update, Blizzard appears to be making big strides with this one. Raza the Unchained is definitely one of the best class legendaries we've seen so far, with a strong, permanent effect. Reno Jackson-like decks are definitely viable with such a wide card pool, at the cost of some consistency. You basically get access to a 7-Mana turn on turn five, and from then on you can heal as you please. The idea of having access to a free healing from turn five onward is just too tempting not to try. Plus, it has lots of potential for synergy with Shadow Priest decks, which are already optimized for use with Reno since it sacrifices some of its own healing abilities..
(4) Seadevil Stinger (4/2)
Battlecry: The next Murloc you play this turn costs Health instead of Mana.
Warlock used to be the go-to home for Murloc decks, since its card draw ability meant you could keep throwing the pesky little fish at your opponent without worrying about running out of minions. That trend has faded, and Murloc doesn't really have a proper home anymore outside of Paladin Anyfin decks. This mid-range Murloc option looks to fill the gap, by giving you an easy way to play two for the price of one. On the other hand, it's pretty brittle, so you'll probably want your second Murloc to be a buffing one to make sure this doesn't just immediately die.
(5) Spiked Hogrider (5/5)
Battlecry: If an enemy minion has Taunt, gain Charge.
The second of the situational hog cards appears best for dealing with taunts. A 5/5 with charge is powerful, but if a Taunt is in the way, it probably can't be used as a finisher. Instead, this makes for a quick way to deal with most Taunt minions, by bashing them out of the way and probably having the minion left with a little health afterwards. It will be especially useful if Taunt Warrior ever takes off, but otherwise, most decks already have a way to deal with taunts.
(4) Tanaris Hogchopper (4/4)
Battlecry: If your opponent's hand is empty, gain Charge.
Last but not least for the hogs, this one appears built to deal with aggressive decks that empty their hand, like Zoo Warlock or Face Hunter. This may be the least useful of the bunch, though, because control decks that attempt to deal with aggressive match-ups generally need defensive options more than offensive ones. Having a charge minion might help you take out a pesky minion from your opponent, but the entire idea behind aggressive decks is that they swarm you, and this won't help much.
(3) Toxic Sewer Ooze (4/3)
Battlecry: Remove 1 Durability from your opponent's weapon.
The big brother of the Acidic Swamp Ooze is strangely... way worse? Toxic Sewer Ooze does get an extra 1/1 in stats for 1 Mana, but its power goes from destroying your opponent's weapon to simply knocking off a Durability point. That's a much weaker effect, and Acidic Swamp Ooze is already so ubiquitous there's no reason to play a more expensive card for a weaker effect. More than anything, this card raises the possiblity that Swamp Ooze is going to be nerfed in the new year's balance updates.
(3) Volcanic Potion
Spell: Deal 2 damage to all minions.
This is a reasonable crowd-control option for Mage, especially if paired with Spell Damage. Three Mana for such a wide-ranging effect is pretty good, especially since it's just one more Mana than the half-as-strong Arcane Explosion. It does come with the slight drawback of damaging all minions, which includes yours, but for a spell-focused Mage that doesn't put many minions down anyway, that's not much of a trade-off.
Be sure to check out all of our of Card Reviews for Hearthstone's Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, and take a look at our full gallery of all the revealed cards!