Continuing our path of featuring value cards, we will be looking at the Azure Drake today!
They initially planned to be the Beryl or Cerulean drakes, but those felt a tad too pretentious.
The Azure Drakes are part of the Blue Dragonflight. They used to be led by the powerful Malygos until the corruption of the Black Dragonflight. Deathwing led the Black Dragonflight on a rampage, annihilating much of the Warcraft universe, including the blue dragons.
After the death of Malygos at the hands of Deathwing, his position was taken up by his son, Kalecgos.
The Blue Dragonflight are masters of the arcane, being able to easily wield devastating magic. They are fairly reclusive and mostly reside in their homeland of Northrend.
- Type: Minion
- Race: Dragon
- Rarity: Rare
- Cost: 5
- Stats: 4/4
- Ability: Spell Damage +1. Battlecry: Draw a card.
- Class: Any
A quick look at Azure Drake’s stats and abilities and you would imagine that he is heavily undercosted.
However, if you take Spell Damage to be the equivalent of 1 stat point (using Kobold Geomancer as a base) and Card Draw at 2 stat points (Loot Hoarder, Novice Engineer, Gnomish Inventor all follow this pattern), Azure Drake will be given an effective +3 to his stat total, putting him at 11 stat points. This is actually in line with the vanilla test of (mana cost x 2) + 1.
However, we should not jump to conclusions of Azure Drake as just being a mere “value minion”. His raw stat value may just pass the vanilla test, but a unique set of conditions set him apart from the rest, making him one of the best, if not the best 5 drop in the game.
As previously mentioned in the article about Stampeding Kodo, the 5 mana slot has generally few/terrible minions. This means that Azure Drake has very little competition.
While I evaluated Card Draw at about 2 stat points per card, its strength in a game itself cannot be valued so lowly. The problem with Card Draw is that it often offers a flat out tempo loss; Azure Drake overcomes that problem by not only providing a problem for the opponent to deal with, but also cycles through your deck.
The stat point loss from Azure Drake may seem costly at first glance, but on closer examination, one will realize that stat points actually have different “tiers”. Let us compare Azure Drake to one of the most common 4 drops in the game, the Chillwind Yeti.
The Azure Drake would be able to survive or kill a Chillwind Yeti with 5 health or attack. However, that is only one of the few situations where his lowered stats really make a big difference.
There aren’t actually that many larger minions than the Chillwind Yeti which has 8 health. Most bodies, which have 6-7 health, will be killed in 2 hits by Azure Drake + another minion/spell anyway, meaning the difference between 4 and 5 attack is not as costly as it first seems. Common 5 health minions include Chillwind Yeti, Twilight Drake (Who often has way higher than 5 health), Fire Elemental. As such, the difference between 5 and 4 attack isn’t that huge a cost. The loss of an attack stat is often made up by the bonus in Spell Damage, which often gives you the extra punch needed to clear out a bigger minion anyway.
The lack of having 5 health is a much bigger detriment to Azure Drake’s power. Having 4 health means he’s killed by a large number of 4 attack minions, such as Chillwind Yeti, Dark Iron Dwarf, or any generic 3 attack minion buffed by a Defender of Argus. It is however, worth to note that unlike attack stats, 3/4/5 are all important health tiers. (4 health avoids 2 mana removal spells like Frostbolt/Wrath/Lightning bolt, while 5 health avoids common 4 attack creatures.)
Azure Drake is a very flexible card who has little competition for what he does: all minions with Card Draw tagged onto them generally have small bodies. (outside of Ancient of Lore, who incidentally is basically an auto 2x include into any Druid Deck) Most Spell Damage minions are generally cost inefficient (Archmage, Dalaran Mage, Ancient Mage) or have too tiny a body to stay on board (Kobold Geomancer). Spell Damage is only useful when used with spells; this means that being able to stay alive is of paramount importance to capitalizing on the Spell Damage bonus.
The Azure Drake is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. If playing him as a body he is without a single shred of doubt inferior to Chillwind Yeti. In terms of raw card draw potential, Loot Hoarder is a cheaper option. When it comes to Spell Damage, Kobold Geomancer or Ancient Mage provide more value for mana. However, none of these cards come close to offering all 3 at once (outside of maybe Bloodmage Thalnos, another fantastic card). It should be noted however that if you play Azure Deck in a deck which does not run many spells, it falls heavily in value.
As such, Azure Drake is best suited for decks which fit the following conditions:
- Need for a decent sized 5 cost body
- Uses spells
- Needs Card Draw (everyone needs Card Draw, actually)
The obvious choices that come to mind are Shaman, Druid, Rogue and Mage.
Druid, however, often faces a dilemma due to having steep competition in the 5 mana slot like the Druid of the Claw. Rogue occasionally finds better mileage with Spiteful Smith or Captain Greenskin (if running many weapons) but Azure Drake is often a more consistent and solid choice. Most standard Shaman decks run 2 Azure Drakes for lack of a better card in that particular slot. Recently though, Control Warriors have been picking up Azure Drakes to fill up the 5 mana slot. There is very little competition for that mana slot in Control Warrior as the only possible cards they would run there are Faceless Manipulator and Brawl.
Because of how flexible and all rounded the card is, as long as you make decent use of Spell Damage, Azure Drake is never a bad pick.
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xNVx is a legend player in Hearthstone, and always think of ways to keep Hearthstone fresh by breaking the meta.
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