Staaannnndddaaaarrrrdddd! Whispers of the Old Gods is finally upon us, and now that we’re about to dive headfirst into Standard, it is time to start the speculation. While I will be covering full deck ideas in my theorycrafting article, here I am going to break down the 10 (or so) best cards from the set. I say “or so” because there are a couple instances below where multiple have been lumped together. The reason is that there are many very strong cards in this set that work with other cards (see C'Thun), and I didn’t want this to turn into a top fifteen or twenty.
I would look at these cards from two different standpoints. One, the inherent power level of the cards themselves, and then the decks they are going to either impact or create. A card is never good unless it has a home, and I think all of the cards below are going to have a list in one capacity or another. In fact, a lot of them may even be good enough to give new decks (or decks that never really took off) a chance to shine. It’s all just speculation, but these are my take on what I think are going to be the biggest players in the coming Standard format, and what are going to contribute most to the soon-to-be shifting meta.
Before we get started…
Honorable Mentions: Blade of C'Thun, N'Zoth, the Corruptor, Hogger, Doom of Elwynn, Blood to Ichor.
10. C’thun/Dark Arakkoa/Klaxxi Amber-Weaver
Going into this I knew I would not be able to make a top ten list without mentioning C'Thun and his hoards of corrupted friends. The reason is that I think the cards are going to be good enough to alter the meta in some way. C’thun has a very strong, game-ending ability, and if you can surround him with the right support he becomes that much stronger. There is a case to made for a couple of powerful C’thun classes (Rogue and Priest most notably) but I think he is going to shine most in Druid. While the minions (covered below) are going to be a huge reason why, the other part of this is ramp. While Druid lost every good card it has ever had, they still have access to Innervate, which means a solid-curve deck will always have a chance no matter what the meta. Add that in addition to things like Wild Growth, and you can have some really strong starts where you quickly get you C’thun to climb in power.
Looking at the minions that are going to make C’thun Druid possible, Dark Arakkoa and Klaxxi Amber-Weaver have such an inherently high power level that I find it hard to imagine they won’t be played. While there have been many strong cards that have never seen play because they don’t have a deck, these two literally have a deck tailor-made for them. Arakkoa not only gives your C'Thun the all-important plus 3/3 (one of the highest C’thun buffs in the game), but it is also a 5/7 with taunt for six. That means you get to play a psuedo Ancient of War one turn earlier that also directly interacts with your win condition. Those stats work as an incredibly strong road block as well as a huge anti-aggression option in a deck that just wants to live until it can play its finisher.
Beyond Arakkoa, Klaxxi Amber-Weaver may very well be one of the best midrange cards in the game. It is a beater of a four drop that has the versatility to be played on curve as a Chillwind Yeti, but can also go through the roof when played with its extra buff. A 4/10 for four that is resistant to silence can basically control the board for a couple of turns at least, and just crushes any other early game minions. It may not be easy to get this card to its full potential on curve due to the small amount of buffs that come before it, but in the right deck it will not be hard to get C’thun to 10 attack. Even if you draw this later like on turn five or six, a 4/10 for four is never going to be bad.
9. Steward of Darkshire/Selfless Hero
Out of all of the cards on this list, these are the two I am the most unsure about. However, as a seasoned Aggro Paladin player, I think both are going to really push the deck into the realm of tier one. Divine Favor did not get hit by the nerf hammer, and just about every cheap aggro option (Knife Juggler, Abusive Sergeant, Twisted Worgen, Argent Horserider etc.) is still around. That means that Steward of Darkshire is going to have a ton of targets at its disposal. Yes, a 3/3 for three is not the most exciting body ever printed, but the ability is truly on the same level of Hobgoblin, and it has more playable targets. Just about every single good Aggro Paladin card (and the hero power) gets a shield from the Steward. In this way, the card is going to be a very strong cog in this deck. It is easy to look at this card and think that its slow, but it is an engine that must be answered right away or the game just slips out of control. Not only does it make your minions resistant to control, and just blows out aggro opponent’s trying to contest the board.
The other half of number nine, Selfless Hero, might be one of the best one drops ever printed. While it does not have the inherent power of pre-nerf Leper Gnome, it does everything an aggro deck wants and more. A 2/1 for one is how just about every aggro deck wants to begin the game, and the ability scales up incredibly well. Hero is a crazy good tempo play because if you play her turn one and your opponent plays a minion to answer your one drop then they are immediately behind. The reason is that you can then play your two drop and trade in the 2/1 to give that two drop divine shield, which then challenges the next minion your opponent is going to play. Combine with that tempo with the fact that she works as another cheap minion in a deck that wants to drop its hand as soon as possible, and you have a perfect fit.
8. Ragnaros, Lightlord
Well, it looks like Control Paladin finally got their other finisher. It has been a long time since the grindy deck was a legitimate contender on the ladder, and if it is going to come back, Ragnaros, Lightlord is going to be a big reason why. Almost every Control Paladin ever made operates on the plan of staying alive until your opponent has no way to answer Tirion Fordring. Now, you can stay alive long enough until you play Ragnaros, Lightlord as well. While this card is not as strong as Tirion, it may actually be better in a lot of situations, such as when you are trying to stay alive through Shaman’s burn or Hunter’s hero power. One of the things that I really like about the converted firelord is that this card is never dead. There are a ton of games, from aggro to midrange to control, where you need extra health. This really helps solve that problem.
One of the biggest things so many control decks in hearthstone struggle with is healing, which is now scarcer than ever thanks to Blizzard’s new design philosophy of it being rare. This card is an incredible amount of healing that repeats every single turn. It also operates as a huge threat that is going to often clear or get in for eight. Yes, it does have the Lightwell problem where it can heal your minion instead of your face, but you should be able to set up a situation where this at least is a Antique Healbot on the turn it comes down. In that way, this is a very strong repeatable ability that can just outright win you the game against a lot of decks. Something else important to note is that this card can heal itself, which means you can also use it as a repeatable removal if your opponent has no ready answer because it can attack in, kill and then go back to full health.
7. Xaril, Poisoned Mind
Moving onto number seven, we have the card that is more than going to make up for the Blade Flurry nerf (yeah, I said it). While many people think that Xaril, Poisoned Mind is a little weak for its cost, I respectively disagree. Yes, this is a 4 mana 3/2, but it is a 4 mana 3/2 that gives you so much inherent value from both being played and dying that it simply does not matter. In fact, I do not think there is a Rogue deck moving forward that will not play this card. Every single toxin is miles ahead of what spare parts were (except for the stealth one, which is still very strong), and they all synergize with what Rogue wants to do. You can use them to do damage, push for lethal, trigger combo, or simply draw more cards. Versatility is the ever-important factor when evaluating what cards are going to be good, and the sheer value you get from one four mana card will slot this into all types of decks. While Ragnaros, Lightlord may not see play due to not having a home, Xaril is not going to have that problem. You may momentarily lose control of the board or take some sort of tempo loss, but if you build your deck right it will be more than worth the set back.
Out of all the decks Xaril could slide into, I want to specifically discuss this card in terms of Miracle Rogue (the main reason it is number seven on my list. Frankly, this card is b-a-n-a-n-a-s with Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Now that Blade Flurry is gone Miracle is going to be forced to do damage in the old fashioned way: with some charge minions and Cold Blood shenanigans. To do that they need to draw their entire deck and stay alive in the process. Despite its body, this card helps with both by enabling you a wide range of options that Miracle Rogue is happy to have. Drawing cards is never a bad thing, and having access to two damage for one mana is also very, very good. Stealth is always strong with your auctioneers and helps you set up Cold Blood or other burst. A third Shadowstep helps you get some extra reach with your finisher of choice, and the three attack lets your run a third Cold Blood for free. Each of those toxins were designed with Miracle Rogue in mind, and give the deck a ton of extra power moving into turns six and seven.
6. Princess Huhuran
Oh my God, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Anyone who follows me knows how much I adore All-Beast Midrange Hunter decks (which I will playing first thing on Standard day one), and Princess Huhuran is exactly the type of card those lists want. Not only does she have a very strong (if not situational) ability, but she is the most aggressively costed beast in the game. A 6/5 for five is a huge body that makes her a third Savannah Highmane. In fact, the Princess into a Highmane is such an incredibly powerful curve that there are very few decks that are going to be able to easily answer it. An old rule of playing against Hunter is that, if you get hit by Highmane even once you are going to lose the game. Now Hunter has another pseudo-lion to throw into the mix, and another giant body that your opponent must kill right away or risk taking too much damage. Yes, the Princess does not make hyenas upon death, but she packs such a big punch it really doesn’t matter.
One of the most important things to understand about Princess Huhuran is that she is number six on this list for her stat-line much more than her ability. Remember, you always want to try to see cards for what they are rather than for what they do. What the princess does is trigger deathrattles, but what she is, is a 6/5 body for five. Do not get caught up on her ability or trying to make it work. You do not have to get inherent value out of the ability for her to be good, and playing her on curve is always going to better that waiting to get hyenas or spiders (more on that later). If you wait around to use her ability you are hurting yourself. You should run her out on just about every turn five you can. Even if she is immediately answered by removal, that is one less chance your opponent has of responding to your late game.
5. Shadow Strike
Alright ladies and gentlemen, pay attention. This is how you do removal. While many are crying at the loss of Blade Flurry, I prefer to look into the future. And, Shadow Strike is the future. The card is a five damage removal spell that costs three mana. That may be the best non-Warrior removal spell in the game. Not only is it extremely solid on curve (good against both late and early game minions alike) but it can also be used with Preparation for enormous tempo swings with things like Violet Teacher and Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Unconditional removal is very hard to come by these days, and while this does not trigger combo as well as other cards, it does a nice job of slotting into the middle turns to nullify big threats. This is exactly what Rogue wants, a card that can kill a Totem Golem or other large early drop, but also that can be used during the later turns of the game to set up killing 6/6’s or 7/7’s with your other removal cards like SI:7 Agent.
Yes, this card is situational in that the minion needs to be undamaged, but anyone who has played Backstab more than once knows how many times you are going to face down a solid threat that you can remove right away. Many of the big or sticky minions in the game are leaving with the implementation of Standard, and hard removal is going to be stronger than ever. No longer do you have to put up with things like Piloted Shredder or Sludge Belcher. As such, when you kill something dead, it stays dead. That fact alone is going to make this one of the best removal spells in the game. This card is just like Backstab, except you trade zero mana cost for the ability to decimate cards like Emperor Thaurissan, Totem Golem and Chillwind Yeti. Just like Xaril, Poisoned Mind, I think this card is so strong that there will not be a single Rogue deck moving forward that won’t run it.
4. Infested Wolf
Moving into number four, Infested Wolf is the card that I really think is going to take Midrange Hunter back to the top of the meta. As good as Princess Huhuran is, the wolf is actually just better (though I didn’t want to admit it). It may be easy to brush this card off as another random beast card, but that is doing this incredible four drop a huge disservice. In fact, I would see this card a lot like Piloted Shredder. While it is not as strong as the annoying mech, it is one of the most aggressively-costed deathrattle minions in the format. This card is a 5/5 for four, but it is actually better than that because of how strong stickiness is in Hearthstone. Three attack does a good job of killing most midrange and early minions, and even if cannot take down another four drop, after trading you are also going to get an extra two attack power on board for your troubles. This is one of the best on-curve beasts Hunter can play, and if it does live for a turn it can also be triggered by the Princess as well.
What really pushes this card over the top for me is that the spiders are beasts. I am going to say that again: the spiders are not ghosts, they are beasts. That means, not only is this a sticky card that can be played perfectly on curve, but it gives you a 3/3 beast which turns into two more 1/1 beasts. As such, this gives you more reliable ways to trigger both Houndmaster and Ram Wrangler (which is going to see play now that the wolf exists). One of the only downsides to play a beast synergy deck is that sometimes it can be hard to keep beasts on the board to trigger your other cards. The wolf singlehandedly solves that problem, and just slots into an already strong archetype to make it stronger. Also remember that those 1/1 beasts happen to have charge if the wolf dies on your opponent’s turn, making it so you can buff them and attack right away.
3. Forbidden Ritual
We are getting close to the mountain top, and what a promising climb it is. When the “forbidden” cycle first got spoiled I really thought it was not going to get better than Forbidden Healing (a card that is notably not on this list). However, I could not have been more wrong. Versatility (something I have written about 10000 times) is one of the, if not the, most important traits in the game of Hearthstone. So much so, that versatility alone put Forbidden Ritual at the number three slot on my list.
This is a card a lot of people are sleeping on and I have no idea why. Yes, it seems bad when looking at it in a vacuum, but you can’t just look at cards based on some arbitrary ruling system (sorry Trump), you have to look at how they are going to operate in the game. And I imagine this is going to be played quite a bit. Before we get into the specific uses for this card, let’s actually look at the card itself. When you play the ritual you are going to get (due to board size) somewhere between one and seven tentacles. Sometimes you are going to get two 1/1’s on turn two, and sometimes you are going to get a full board on turn ten. One thing that makes this so strong is that you really can play this in any situation depending on what you need. Yes, it is going to take all of your remaining mana, but you can easily manipulate the cards you play (or your tapping) to always make sure you get the exact number that what you want.
The reason this card is so high on my list is because of how powerful it is in Zoo. The aggressive Warlock is not going anywhere in Standard, and it needs tools to fill in the holes left behind by the absence of some of its more key players. The most notable of those is Imp-losion. While Forbidden Ritual is not on the same power level, it operates in largely the same vein. There are many times where you would play against Zoo and you would have to save AOE for a sudden board full of imps. No deck in the game can get more use out of 1/1 bodies than Zoo can, and this gives you however many you need all in just one card. There are just so many uses here. The card can be used on curve to get an early opening, it can be held during the later turns to instantly fill your board up after AOE, and it also works with both Knife Juggler and Sea Giant. There are just a ton of interactions this card has that Zoo wants, and I cannot imagine the deck going forward without it.
2. Master of Evolution/Thing from Below
I mention these two cards together because they are going to combine to take Midrange Shaman from an average deck to completely over the top. These are the Muster for Battle/Shielded Minibot of the set, and they are coming for all of us. While Shaman got many strong tools this time around, these cards are the gears that are going to make the entire machine turn. The first of the duo is Thing From Below, a 5/5 with taunt that is significantly undercosted. The reason that totems have never been exceptional is because there have never been truly powerful cards that interact with totem synergy. Thing from Below fixes that by rewarding you for playing or summoning totems in a big, big way. A 5/5 for with taunt for four or three is incredibly valuable during the middle turns of the game, and, since it will be free during the later turns of the game, a lot of the time it can be drawn and laid down as an immediate threat. This card is only upside, and rewards you for doing things your deck does naturally anyway.
That being said, as good as Thing From Below is, Master of Evolution is even better. In a Shredder-less world, stats at the four drop are very important, and nothing has a more solid distribution than Chillwind Yeti. Master of Evolution has that same distribution (4 attack, 5 power), but also with an incredible ability to recombobulate a card to the mana cost directly above it. This card turns three drops into four drops, six drops into seven drops and totems into two drops. For this reason, you are almost always going to have a target to trigger this, and give it some type of value as the game goes on. It also has a really nice interaction with weaker statted minions such as Tuskarr Totemic, as well as any minions that are damaged. Even if you don’t have something on the board, Standard is most likely going to be a format where a vanilla 4/5 on turn four is just fine.
1. Call of the Wild
Honestly, how could anything else be number one? You may have been looking for a surprise. You may have hoped for some secret tech card or super out-of-left-field crazy prediction down here, but the truth is, nothing comes close to Call of the Wild. While many cards in this set are quite strong, this is the only one that truly borders on the realm of OP. All three Animal Companions — Huffer, Misha, Leokk — are very strong cards on their own. When you can summon them all together at one time, it just starts to get a little insane. Looking at this card, it gives you a 5/2 with charge, a 5/4 with taunt and a 2/4 that buffs your entire board with an extra attack when it comes into play. Not to mention, all three cards are beasts, giving you even more ways to interact with the other hunter cards.
What makes this card so special is that it is never bad. Going back to the idea of versatility discussed in Forbidden Ritual, this card has a use for just about every situation. It is good when you are behind, it is good when you are tied, and it is a finisher when you are ahead. This card is not just three other minions in one, it also serves as a removal spell (due to Huffer’s charge), a great way to push for lethal (due to Leokk’s buff), a way to protect yourself (Misha’s taunt) and is also the best responses to AOE in the game. This card is going to give every single deck that plays Hunter some type of nightmare. You either clear your opponent’s board and then find yourself facing down 12/12 worth of stats over three bodies the next turn, or you let your opponent have minions only to get crushed by a 5/4 with charge and a global plus-attack. When it comes to cards from Whispers of the Old Gods, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Well, that’s my take on the top ten standard cards from Whispers of the Old Gods, and I hope it gives you some ideas of what you want to begin the new format with. I already have many decks lined up, and almost all of them are going to feature at least one or two of the above cards. Whispers is looking to be a very cool set overall, and there are a lot of things I cannot wait to try. I hope all of you have the same enthusiasm, and I hope you each enjoy the set as much as I will. Thanks for reading!