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.)
These are the premium picks. You want to go for one of these two classes, if you can.
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.
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.
These two classes are a step down from Tier 1, but are still favored against most classes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!