Greetings, fellow hearthstone fans! Blizzard has decided to cap off a very successful year of card-slinging with a massive expansion full of explosions, robots and other associated craziness: Goblins vs. Gnomes! In my next few guides, we're going to take a closer look at the state of the Arena, now that 120 new cards have been added to the mix of picks, and analyze which classes came out best and worst from the additions of the new cards.

Turn up the pace

In previous hearthstone play, the biggest difference between Constructed and Arena play was speed. Constructed games were typically quick, with most games decided before turn 10. In contrast, Arena games often became slow number-fests, where the best cards were simply the ones with the most numbers.

Goblins vs. Gnomes has tweaked that balance significantly. With no new board-clearing spells (save one Priest-only epic, Lightbomb), the old reliable catch-up cards such as Flamestrike or Consecration will be less common, further increasing the importance of contesting the board early. Additionally, several cards were added that can swing the game if not dealt with early, such as Floating Watcher, Mechwarper and Micro Machine. Slow high-cost cards such as Gurubashi Berserker, Ravenholdt Assassin, or War Golem still have a place in an Arena deck...but much less of one. 

To the rankings! (Note: I'll only be looking at class commons and rares; some of the new class epics and legendaries are extremely good cards, but they show up so rarely in a draft that I don't take them into account when ranking.)

Tier 1

These are the premium picks. You want to go for one of these two classes, if you can.

Paladin

Yes, I think it's finally happened - Paladin has overthrown Mage as the best choice in Arena (though it's extremely close). We'll talk more about Mages in a minute, but Paladin has always been my #2, and the increased focus on tempo plays right into the hands of Shielded Minibot. It's an Argent Protector on steroids that can 2-for-1 most of the traditional 3/2's played on Turn 2. Late-game, it makes for a good Blessing of Kings target as it's likely to survive a turn. Seal of Light is pretty poor in contrast; while it's better than Holy Light in that it still affects the board somewhat, self-heals are generally bad Arena picks.

Of the rares, two are pretty good. Muster for Battle is a excellent value choice, but makes a turn 4 Truesilver Champion (still the best Paladin card, excepting Tirion Fordring) very awkward. Scarlet Purifier has decent stats and is definitely worth a pick; just watch out for Nerubian Eggs, unless they're yours. Cobalt Guardian is the odd card out; it's pretty bad, as it's too difficult to activate in Arena.

Mage

What happened to Mage? Basically, their new cards aren't that great, and they draw less Flamestrikes, Fireballs, and Water Elementals. It's still a very strong class; it lacks the late-game strength of the Paladin, but Mage still has the best Arena hero ability, and still has the ability to burst out some damage to close out a game when the tides are turning.

Looking at the new cards, Flamecannon is an obvious choice; while I'd still prefer Frostbolt for the flexibility, the randomness is generally not an issue. The rest are a mixed bag. Snowchugger, Soot Spewer, and Goblin Blastmage are all average cards; not bad, but not particularly special unless you happen to draft a lot of Mech synergy. Unstable Portal is also in that average category. Sure, it'll probably let you drop a good card cheap, but it probably won't be the turn you play it. Not a terrible card, but not great.

Tier 2

These two classes are a step down from Tier 1, but are still favored against most classes.

Rogue

Rogue might make Tier 1, if it wasn't so finicky. It is the hands-down best class at playing fast, and should be able to beat everyone else in the early-game. Unfortunately, without the right drops, it's often difficult to finish an opponent before you run out of cards or life. Rogue decks are also one of the most difficult to play; on many turns, even though you have a spare mana and a 1-mana card, it's better not to play it so you can use it as a combo starter on the next. Identifying those situations takes practice.

Supporting this tempo play is a great new rogue card, Goblin Auto-Barber. If you have a good Turn 3 play, coining out your dagger on Turn 1 into a Turn 2 Auto-Barber is an amazingly strong start if you can dagger their 2-drop. The other cards are fairly marginal, however. Ogre Ninja is a decent value card and worth a pick, but doesn't really support a fast-tempo approach. Tinker's Sharpsword Oil is too situational; sure, its a great card, but you need a fresh weapon, an activator card, and a minion on board to make it worth it. Similarly, Iron Sensei requires too much mech synergy to be useful. Oh, and One-Eyed Cheat is absolutely terrible and you should never pick it if you like winning.

Shaman

Prior to GvG, I would have considered Shaman a Tier 1 class. Unfortunately, they didn't get a lot of help from the GvG cards, and are thus trending down somewhat on the backs of their aggravatingly inconsistent hero power. Fire Elemental can still dominate lategame, and Stormforged Axe still solidifies things early, but all their great midgame cards are rares.

GvG continues this trend with one great midgame rare, Powermace. Turn 3 Powermace into a Turn 4 Mechanical Yeti or Piloted Shredder is an easy combo that is quite powerful midgame. The Shaman commons are pretty good, too; Crackle is an okay removal spell that is used similarly to Lightning Bolt, and Whirling Zap-O-Matic is a major early threat. Unfortunately, the other new rares (excepting Powermace) are much worse. Vitality Totem does nothing to the board and just gets ignored. Dunemaul Shaman is at least a minion, but overcosted and generally bad, as the attack RNG cancels out the advantages of Windfury. 

Tier 3

These are your mediocre heroes. All are capable of going 12 wins, but either a poor hero power or poor card selection prevents them from being ranked higher. 

Priest

Priest has come back significantly in Arena since the original release, when they were flat-out terrible. In both Naxxramas and now GvG, priest have received very strong common cards that make them a threat to run away with a game if they get a solid board. Their key weakness remains their hero power; it's generally uncommon to have a use for it on board, making planning you mana curve even more critical than in other classes.

Both new commons are insanely good. Shrinkmeister can be played alone on Turn 2 if needed, but the battlecry enables favorable trades, increases the value of the hero power, and is just overall amazing. Velen's Chosen is also a great buff spell, for many of the same reasons, and has a bonus synergy with Holy Nova.

The rares, while not as amazing as the commons, are all solid picks. Shadowboxer is a Priest-flavored Knife Juggler, and Upgraded Repair Bot is a solid vanilla drop even if you have no mechs. Light of the Naaru is the worst of the lot, and it's not that bad; either a spot 1-mana heal for 3 or a (with hero power) 3-mana heal for 5 on your hero with a 3/2 minion attached.

Druid

Druids in Arena are extremely flexible. Unfortunately, that flexibility comes at the cost of power. It's very rare to have a terrible Druid deck, but also rare to have a great one.

The new GvG cards present in Druid reflect this, all being mostly average. The Anodized Robo-Cub is a good card for playing reactively, but becomes merely average when played into an empty board, and doesn't do much lategame. Mech-Bear-Cat is the best of the lot with solid stats, but isn't game-changing like a Sunwalker or Argent Commander. Recycle is much better than Naturalize, but it's extremely expensive compared to other classes' removals. Grove Tender has okay stats but the ability probably benefits your opponent more than you. Finally, Druid of the Fang is really bad as there's not a ton of Druid Beasts, and a 7/7 for 5 isn't a game-winner even if you pull it off.

Warlock

Warlock is the polar opposite of Priest. The Warlock's hero power is almost always a good use of mana, but their class cards are generally poor. This means you really want to draft a low-cost deck that drops lots of cards and refills itself via the hero power...but the draft often will not cooperate with that.

Thankfully, the new GvG cards are generally a step above their peers. Floating Watcher is an amazing common that can win games unaided and frequently forces your opponents to trade multiple cards to kill it quickly, especially when summoned via Voidcaller. Darkbomb is an alternative to Soulfire, which remains good even after the nerf. Imp-losion is an amazing rare that gets both value and tempo. (Kill a 3-drop and get 3 1/1's on average? Hell yeah!). The other rares are much worse, however. Fel Cannon doesn't have enough stats for an effect that can hurt you, especially when you should be going for a lower-curve deck. Mistress of Pain is just straight bad.

Hunter

In the Arena, Hunter plays like a less-capable Rogue. Both classes favor ending games quickly, and Hunter is great at coming up with the final few points of damage to end the game; unfortunately, they're much less capable of winning the initial board control needed, and the new GvG cards made them worse overall.

The only good new card they received was Glaivezooka. This weapon is amazing, and a potential 3-for-1 in the early turns. Unfortunately, it gets much worse after that. Metaltooth Leaper and King of Beasts both require board position and synergy to work well, making them below-average. Cobra Shot and Call Pet are just bad spells and a waste of a spot in a deck.

Tier 4

Warrior

I feel bad for Warriors. They were never a great Arena class: with zero help from their hero power, their only road to salvation was a draft full of weapons and a good mana curve to out-tempo their opponent. Unfortunately, every single new GvG common/rare is terrible for tempo, dropping them to the last slot in my list.

Warbot is just bad; at 1/3, most of the time, it gives an opposing 3/2 a free kill. Ogre Warmaul is a terrible weapon (weapon RNG is really bad, you NEED it to clear minions). Screwjank Clunker requires mech synergy to be good, which is uncommon in Arena. At least Siege Engine and Shieldmaiden are average; they're not great, but they're not Angry Chickens.

That wraps up the class rankings! Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!

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