The next Hearthstone expansion is coming soon, and this one takes a Journey to Un'Goro. The new set of dino-sized cards is set to drop in early April. To prepare for Un'Goro, we're having weekly card reviews, with new editions every Monday leading up to the release.
This week we got a closer look at Elementals, which are more than your typical tribal. These minions are built around drawing on the ambient power left by prior elementals to charge them up. That means that many of them have special effects based on having played elementals in a previous turn. This creates a mechanic similar to the Shaman's Overload, which rewards careful planning for future turns, sometimes forcing sub-optimum plays to invest in a bigger reward later.
Journey to Un'Goro introduces three new notable mechanics that will be seen throughout the card reviews:
- Quests: Each class gets one of these 1-mana spells, which gives you certain conditions to fulfill for a big reward. Including a Quest in your deck means it will always appear in your Mulligan round, so you can count on it appearing from the start. This also means that each class gets two Legendary cards: one Legendary minion, and one Legendary Quest.
- Adapt: The plants and animals of Un'Goro have evolved the ability to gain an extra attribute of your choosing. Cards with the "Adapt" keyword can be boosted with extra attack or health, Divine Shield, Taunt, etc.
- Elemental Tribe: Many of Un'Goro's denizens are part of the new Elemental tribe, and existing cards like Ragnaros will be retrofitted with the tribe.
(2) Clutchmother Zavas (2/2)
Whenever you discard this, give it +2/+2 and return it to your hand.
Blizzard has tried a lot of sneaky workarounds to make discard decks more viable, and some have gotten awfully close. With Un'Goro, and a new Quest built around discards, it's more vital than ever that it find a way to make discards an appealing mechanic. Clutchmother Zavas is a pretty promising option. Its card text makes it effectively discard-proof, and not only that, but you get a buff from it. If you can engineer two discards, that makes it a 6/6 for only 2 Mana. That's some incredible value.
In addition, both discards would count toward your Quest, which has a big Control-oriented reward. Both the Quest and Class Legendary are pushing Warlock in a very specific direction this time around, but that direction appears extremely strong.
(2) Corrupting Mist
Spell: Corrupt every minion. Destroy them at the start of your next turn.
Like the original Corruption, this is a strong but unstable version of enemy removal. The original, costed at 1 mana, could be put on a single target at will, but as a removal option that meant your opponent still had a turn to use it–either to hit your face or use that dying minion to remove one of yours. Corrupting Mist is very efficiently costed at only 2 mana, but it hits your own minions too, and still waits a turn to enact its effect. That means it will be a risky play for crowd control, since you're essentially giving your opponent no reason not to simply hit your face over and over. You could combo by playing Corrupting Mist first and then a few minions, but then they'd simply trade in with minions that are going to die anyway. This is a card that could be decent for utility, but it will depend on how fast the meta is.
(2) Crackling Razormaw (3/2)
Battlecry: Adapt a friendly Beast.
I'm fairly bullish on Adapt as a mechanic, but Crackling Razormaw seems too conditional to be very useful. You need an existing minion on the board, and it needs to be a Beast. Those barriers aren't awful, but it's two more roadblocks than most other Adapt minions we've seen so far. You could potentially get some good use out of this in combination with a card that leaves behind Beast tokens, like the Kindly Grandmother, but it will be difficult to have both in your starting hand when they'd be most useful.
(3) Curious Glimmerroot (3/3)
Battlecry: Look at 3 cards. Guess which one started in your opponent's deck to get a copy of it.
Certainly one of the weirder cards, this Priest minion lets you build your deck with opponent's cards in a way similar to Thoughtsteal or Drakonid Operative. But instead of fulfilling in-game conditions, it requires you as a player to have knowledge of the meta. Assuming the bogus cards are plucked at random, it should be fairly easy for a player familiar with current decks to guess and get the card. It also subtly encourages deck experimentation that could throw off your Priest as an opponentat at worst, it's a 3/3 for 3.
(1) Fire Fly (1/2)
Battlecry: Add a 1/2 Elemental to your hand.
This little Elemental doesn't do much on its own. With low stats, it won't usually be a great turn-one play. However, it does serve a very utilitarian purpose as a cheap activator for later Elementals. With just a two-Mana investment on a late-game turn, you'll be well on your way to some of the bigger elemental effects. That makes it worth including for Elemental-based decks, if they become viable.
(2) Flame Geyser
Spell: Deal 2 damage. Add a 1/2 Elemental to your hand.
Similar to Fire Fly, but as a spell, this Mage card is one of the least efficient removal spell options. So like Fire Fly, it will rely very heavily on whether Elemental decks become viable. If so, having a utility spell damage and token combo to activate Elementals in future turns is great. Otherwise, this card is pretty awful.
(1) Glacial Shard (2/1)
Battlecry: Freeze an enemy.
Traditionally, Mages get the most use out of Freeze effects. Glacial Shard gives every other class a cheap Freezing option, while also allowing it to double as an enabler for an Elemental turn. This is likely to show up in Elemental decks due to the dual utility, especially given that it's such a cheap option. Plus, it's a Common card, so it'll be easy to pack two.
(3) Gluttonous Ooze (3/3)
Battlecry: Destroy your opponent's weapon and gain armor equal to its attack.
Cower in fear, Control Warriors. Gluttonous Ooze is a fantastic weapon removal option, after the last Ooze made me wonder if it Blizzard was backing off strong weapon-destroying effects. For one more mana than the Acidic Swamp Ooze, you get a minion with one extra health, and an armor bump to boot. This makes it risky for your opponent to play high-attack weapons (or to upgrade them to become high attack, Pirate Warriors), since doing so will only benefit you with chunks of armor. Solid card all around and a very easy tech pick for a weapon-heavy meta.
(2) Hydrologist (2/2)
Battlecry: Discover a Secret.
Hydrologist is a fine but unremarkable card, with two drawbacks that will probably prevent it from finding a home in competitive decks. The first is that finding an extra Secret isn't very valuable when you can already pack two by default, and Paladin has enough bad Secrets that sometimes you'll just get a dud of a Discover. The second is that as a Murloc, it would really play best in some kind of Murloc synergy. Anyfin Paladin is cycling out, and you wouldn't play Hydrologist in it anyway, so where does this belong? It's possible some other Murloc synergy is coming that will make this a good fit for a new deck type, but so far, we haven't seen it.
(8) Kalimos, Primal Lord (7/7)
Battlecry: If you played an Elemental last turn, cast an Elemental Invocation.
Kalimos has the potential to be a very versatile Legendary for Shaman. Fulfilling his requirement by playing an Elemental, which should be easy enough with the right deck build-around, lets you choose an effect. Those include dealing 3 damage to all enemy minions, filling your board with 1/1 minions, restoring 12 health to your hero, and dealing 6 damage to the enemy hero.
Each of those could be very helpful for a control-style Shaman, and on the whole this expansion looks to be very control-oriented. Each of the Kalimos effects are merely so-so, but the ability to choose them as needed could be what makes it very worthwhile.
(9) King Mosh (9/7)
Battlecry: Destroy all damaged Minions.
The Warrior's version of a big brutish dinosaur might be too conditional to find much play. Warrior does excel at mass damage, and a lot of its effects like Execute have damage as a prerequisite. However, many of its mass damage options hit its own minions as well, and trading a minion would leave your own damaged too. That means King Mosh would be a full board wipe in the best cases, and that becomes much harder against minions with Divine Shield. It might find a home in very slow Control Warrior decks, but it's doubtful.
(5) Living Mana
Spell: Transform your Mana Crystals into 2/2 minions. Recover the mana when they die.
Put this card in the "interesting but maybe not very good" category. Living Mana puts a lot of bodies on the board, and then raises a unique tactical situation for your opponent: do they go through the expense of removing your minions, which gives you back your Mana Crystals in preparation for the next turn? Or do they let them stand and risk a combo play with a card like Innervate enabling it? If you trade in the minions on your own turn, your Crystals remain empty for that turn, so you can't simply trade them in and then play a minion. That's smart design, since the effect would be overpowered, but it also theoretically makes it easy to play around.
(1) Lost in the Jungle
Spell: Summon two 1/1 Silver Hand Recruits.
What a strange card. While it's somewhat useful to put two bodies on the board so early and for so cheap, Silver Hand Recruits are among the least hearty minion around. This is essentially half of the Druid spell Living Roots, but without the Choose One option. Paladin's buffs could make more use out of small minions, but it's not a good sign when the starting point is to take another class' spell and make it worse.
(3) Mana Bind
Secret: When your opponent casts a spell, add a copy to your hand that costs (0).
We've seen some good Secrets synergy in this set, and Mana Bind could be another strong addition. Punishing your opponent for casting a spell by letting you throw it right back at them is a solid effect. Your opponent could render it fairly useless by using a spell that doesn't have much impact on its own, but that will ideally force sub-optimal plays. Once in a while, you'll get a very strong spell from an opponent who wasn't careful enough.
(3) Mimic Pod
Spell: Draw a card, then add a copy of it to your hand.
This Rogue spell helps activate its combos by giving it more fuel, but more significantly, it looks like a vital tool to activate the Rogue's quest. That makes it only as good as the quest is, and as you can see below, we have some skepticism about how well it will work. Namely, Mimic Pod is the only new activator tool we've seen for the quest, and that puts a lot of weight on it to perform. At least, so far.
(3) Mirage Caller (2/3)
Battlecry: Choose a friendly minion. Summon a 1/1 copy of it.
There's good reason to believe that Mirage Caller might succeed where the Legendary minion Herald Volazj didn't. This is a cheaper option that selects a single target. Better yet, the copy it makes counts as a summon, so it ticks one more toward the Priest Quest of summoning seven Deathrattle minions. You'll get double the Deathrattle effect, and work towards the powerful Quest at the same time. That's a win all around, so expect this to show up a lot in Quest decks.
(1) Molten Blade (1/1)
Weapon: Each turn this is in your hand, transform it into a new weapon.
This is easily one of Hearthstone's "just for fun" cards. Like Shifter Zerus, we shouldn't expect to see it in serious play. We shoud, however, expect to see hilarious highlight reels in which some lucky Warrior gets a Doomhammer and then upgrades it to become a killing machine.
(9) Ozruk (5/5)
Taunt. Battlecry: Gain +5 Health for each Elemental you played last turn.
The first big Elemental, clearly meant to illustrate the concept of investing in future turns, is Ozruk. And it's certainly an intriguing card, but not necessarily a great one. To get even an average set of stats for the cost you would need to beef him up to a 5/15. That's not necessarily difficult, but it makes him vulnerable to Silence effects or other spell removal. Like any minion that takes a lot of investment, in this case both before and then in the turn he's played, he needs to be hearty. A 5/20 Taunt can stall for a good long time, but it's hard to tell if he'll be any better than that.
As a side-note, this is one card that would actually play very well with the hand-buffing of the Grimy Goons from Mean Streets of Gadgetzan.
(3) Primalfin Lookout (3/2)
Battlecry: If you control another Murloc, Discover a Murloc.
The Discover mechanic has led to a lot of cards like this one, which lets you augment your tribal synergy with even more tribal synergy. Now it's the Murlocs' turn, with a card that seems built to work with the Shaman quest by giving you Murlocs upon Murlocs. This probably won't be too useful outside of Shaman–the only other class to play heavy Murlocs is Paladin, and its Anyfin strategy requires some very particular Murloc plays–but it's a solid inclusion for that nonetheless.
(1) Small Raptor (2/1)
Deathrattle: Shuffle a 4/3 Raptor into your deck.
This little cutie is like a slower but more powerful version of Kindly Grandmother. Rather than putting out a 3/2 minion immediately, it spits out a 4/3 minion for only 1 Mana, but you have to wait until you draw it. That makes it more attuned for Control decks that don't necessarily need sticky minions as much as it needs long draws. That also makes it ideal for the Hunter Quest, as it both helps fulfill the condition and can benefit from the effect.
(7) Stone Sentinel (4/4)
Battlecry: If you played an Elemental last turn, summon two 2/3 Elementals with Taunt.
The Shaman is the class that makes the most sense for Elementals, flavor-wise, so it's a bit odd that its first big class-exclusive one is so underwhelming. In sheer stat value, it's perfectly fine: a conditional 8/11 for 7 Mana, spread across three bodies. By turn seven, though, your opponent is almost guaranteed to have an answer for the Taunts, if not for the Sentinel itself. This makes it more of a nuisance than a threat, and that's not what you want for a big turn-seven minion that requires preparation as well.
(1) The Caverns Below
Quest: Play four minions with the same name.
Reward: Crystal Core.
At least so far, the Rogue Quest appears to be one of the hardest to pull off. Packing two copies of a minion means you'd have to Mimic Pod them twice, or get very lucky with a Thistle Tea. Gang Up would be a much more reliable method of getting multiple card copies, but it's rotating out of the Standard set. Given all this, it seems likely there are other activator cards we haven't seen yet, which will make it easier to play multiple copies of the same minion in a match. So assuming the quest will be made relatively easier, we have to turn to whether the reward is worthwhile.
(5) Crystal Core
For the rest of the game, your minions are 5/5.
After quite a bit of setup, this is a strong effect. A Rogue that builds around this quest would likely pack their deck with cheap, usually weaker minions, both for the ease of fulfilling the Caverns Below quest, and for getting a worthwhile stat boost out of Crystal Core. This would be especially wild in a deck that features a Legendary like Moroes, which continously spits out extra minions. That said, by the time you fulfill the quest requirements, you may not have too many minions left to take advantage of the effect.
(1) The Marsh Queen
Quest: Play seven 1-cost minions.
Reward: Queen Carnassa.
The Hunter Quest rewards you for playing a lot of minions like Small Raptor (above) with a flood of other small minions. The quest objective is likely to be relatively easy to pull off, though needing to hit seven 1-cost minions means you'll have to fill your deck with enough of them, at the expense of some control as your opponent ramps up with higher-cost minions. Your reward for all this is...
(5) Queen Carnassa (8/8)
Battlecry: Shuffle 15 Raptors into your deck.
As a 5-mana 8/8, this could help bail you out after sacrificing some tempo earlier in the game to fulfill the quest requirements. But her real strength comes in the increase to your deck size. Each raptor is a 1-Mana 3/2 Beast that draws a card. That means by the time you hit Carnassa, you could just keep hitting more of them and flood your board with Raptors. The Beast synergy means they'll also activate spells or minions that need Beasts for cheap. It's a strong effect, though the swarming aspect does leave you vulnerable to board clears.
(4) Tol'vir Stoneshaper (3/5)
Battlecry: If you played an Elemental last turn, gain Taunt and Divine Shield.
A pretty vanilla but nonetheless solid inclusion for Elemental-based control decks, the Tol'vir Stoneshaper has surprisingly decent stats given that fulfilling its conditions tacks on two extra keywords. A 4-Mana 3/5 with Taunt is standard Shieldmasta stats, but adding a Divine Shield makes it that much harder to remove. Expect to see this as a standard inclusion in Elemental decks that play for the long game.
(5) Tol'vir Warden (3/5)
Battlecry: Draw two 1-cost minions from your deck.
A valuable minion in Hunter Quest decks, the Warden lets you catch up a little in tempo if you've fallen behind by turn five. It has a heartier body than your 1-cost minions, but lets you draw them to play them the next turn. Or, if you happen to draw him after completing the Quest, that's two more Raptors in your hand.
(1) Unite the Murlocs
Quest: Summon 10 Murlocs.
The Shaman, always a friend to fish, has its new Quest center around Murlocs. Meeting the criteria should be simple enough. Plenty of Murloc minions summon buddies along with them, and Primalfin Lookout (above) helps you fill your hand even more. You could reasonably fulfill the criteria by turn six or seven in most cases. The question then becomes, is the quest reward worth it?
(5) Megafin (8/8)
Battlecry: Fill your hand with random Murlocs.
The answer: not particularly. Megafin is a big pile of stats, but no bigger than some of the other Quest rewards, and dealing with a single 8/8 isn't very difficult. That makes evaluating him depend on his effect. Filling your hand with random Murlocs is very similar to Neptulon, a Shaman Legendary that saw almost no competitive play. If your strategy relies on playing a lot of Murlocs to be able to play even more Murlocs, you're going to be throwing some notoriously fragile minions at your opponent. You might manage to overwhelem with this many Murlocs in play, but if you're up against an opponent with just about any control tools, your big plan will fizzle out.
(5) Vilespine Slayer (3/4)
Combo: Destroy a minion.
Expect to see this one for some time. Combo effects are always in style for Rogue, and this one essentially gives the class a 3/4 minion paired with an Assassinate effect. Combos are easy enough to enable that this will come in handy more often than not, so it's an obvious snap-pick for the dual utility.
(7) Volcanosaur (5/6)
Battlecry: Adapt, then Adapt
With weak stats, this minion is all about versatility. It gets two adaptations instead of only one, letting you customize it to your liking. In the most vanilla version of its adaptation, you could bump its Attack and Health to make it a 7-Mana 8/9 body. But when you consider all the other options, from Stealth to Poison to Taunt, it becomes pretty hard to top for the cost. Of course, it might take some as-yet-unseen Adapt synergy with other cards to push it truly over the top and compete with some other synergistic decks.