This week on Top 10’s, we are going to shift gears a little bit. Let’s call it the Picasso episode. While the past few weeks of this series have been razor-edge focused, this time around we are going to go a little more abstract. I say this because today we are looking at the best finishers of all time, and to do that we need to define exactly what a finisher is. This is a very interesting question that will no doubt raise a conversation within itself. However, it must be dealt with before moving forward.
In my mind (and for the purposes of this list) finishers are cards that you use to win the game. Not in the sense of something like Loatheb, which might win you the game a lot of the time, but the card you put into your deck and said “this is how I am going to win my games”. That can be with a combo card, a strong end-game threat or simply a powerful minion that your opponent cannot answer. If you have a card that does all of your damage, it’s a finisher. If you have a card that is almost always going to be dealing the lethal blow, it’s a finisher. If you have a card that’s only purpose is to win the game (i.e Bloodlust) it’s a finisher. There is no one form of finisher in Hearthstone, which is why this list is tricky to nail down. They come in all shapes and sizes, and range from spells to minions. While you may win with other cards some of the time, these are the ones that seal the deal.
Arcane Golem (Pre-nerf)
Though not a finisher in the traditional sense, I almost included the 4/2 on the actual list for its combo potential and role in big burst decks. However, I ultimately decided to confine it to the honorable mentions because it was only a finisher for a short amount of time in a few decks, which wasn’t enough to push into the top ten. Even so, four charge damage stapled to a Power Overwhelming killed more than a few people in its day, and that’s worth noting.
A strong as Doomhammer is right now, you do not want to get caught up in recency bias. This card saw very little to no play for most of the time it has been around. Is it a finisher now? Absolutely. However, that does not automatically put a card onto the list. The weapon’s inherent power gets it a mention, but its short use, the overload and the fact that it can be countered with weapon hate keep it from the list.
Though it pains me to keep him off of the list, Prophet Velen just isn’t good enough for the top ten. Though undoubtedly strong on his own, Velen was ever only used for one reason: to kill the opponent. That was done in combination with Mind Blast as a way to do a quick 20 to the dome. However, though a brave few actually took the combo to legend (myself included) it was too fringe to make the top 10.
Another Shaman card that just missed the list (you should be able to guess which one made it), Bloodlust is a fantastic finishing card that can lead to a lot of “oops, I win” moments. However, this has seen even less play than Doomhammer, which doesn’t put it in a great spot. Though this certainly has some potential, flashes in the pan are never going to make my final list.
The Top 10
It is hard to have a list of finishers without the spell-damage dragon. While everything on this list is a finisher, Malygos is the finisher. That does not necessarily mean he is the best finisher (far from it), but this is a card that wins the game whenever he comes down. Continuing the above discussion, what separates Malygos from cards like Power Overwhelming, Doomguard or Mysterious Challenger (which are all inherently not finishers) is that his only purpose was to win games. He did not challenge the board, he was not a threat, he was the win. Plain and simple. Malygos may have acted as AOE one out of every hundred times he came down, but that was never even close to his main function. For that sheer power level, he makes the top.
Though there are far better cards on this list, Malygos sneaks into number ten because it has acted as a finisher across multiple classes. Miracle Druid, Malylock, Malyrogue, Dragon Shaman and even some versions of Freeze Mage all turned to the dragon as their primary win condition at least once. Early on the dragon was too slow and cards too weak. So the dragon did not have a home outside of some fringe Freeze lists. However, that changed with the printing of Emperor Thaurissan, which skyrocketed his potential. At the end of the day he saw legend only a fraction of the other cards on this list, but he did see it quite a bit. He got the most use from Warlock, but really pulled his weight in the other classes as well.
9. Al’akir the Windlord
As evidenced by the honorable mentions, Shaman is a class that absolutely loves its finishers. While Doomhammer and Bloodlust have both proved to be very strong ways to end the game, neither of them saw half as much play as Al'Akir the Windlord. This card is not just one of the most effecient minions ever printed, it was once the way that Shaman beat control and midrange. Even now, this card is an amazing end-game tool that crushes slower decks and immediately ends tight games. There are many times where Midrange Shaman would be fighting an honest battle only to suddenly spring a lethal turn on their opponent out of nowhere.
What pushed Al’akir into the top is that when it wins the game, it is going to do so on the turn it comes down. While this trait is seen in other cards, it is a very rare ability. hearthstone is made in a way where powerful burst options are always going to be strong. There are many types of burst, but none interact with their class quite as well as Al’akir. Though three attack windfury is nothing to write home about, ten off of Flametongue Totem or twelve from Rockbiter Weapon made this one of the most dangerous game-enders around.
8. Anyfin Can Happen
One of the newer cards on this list, Anyfin Can Happen was a crazy cool finisher that created one of the most interesting deck types hearthstone has ever seen. Murloc Paladin was a deck that operated in a strange sphere that didn’t exist before the deck and hasn’t really existed since. That is to say it was a Combo Control deck that managed the board by trading off minions and stalling until you played your game-ending trump card that there really was no answer to. There are control decks and there are combo decks, but the two modes had never been melded in quite this way before.
The reason Anyfin Can Happen hits number eight is because of just how absurdly strong it was in multiples. One Anyfin could do up to twenty two damage if there were no taunts in the way. That was strong and often would be lethal against many popular lists. However, the second one really pushed it over the top, doing thirty or more in one go. That kind of damage potential has never been seen in any other card, and for good reason. Some finishers do twenty or so damage, but being able to kill someone from full health is really what separated this from the pack. Often times your opponent would be forced to kill the first Anyfin, instantly opening them up to a lethal strike the next turn. Not the best finisher in the game, but certainly one of the scariest.
Easily the newest card on this list, C'Thun has made quite the impact during its short time in Hearthstone. The ten mana God is as finershy as they come, a giant end-game threat that either clears the board or kills your opponent in one fell swoop. Yes, he needs cards to buff him, but that proved much easier to do than must people initially thought. When C’thun first came around many people were suspicious about how easy he would be to integrate into different classes, and he answered the call. Big time.
The reason that C'Thun is not higher than seven if two-fold. One is the fact that it simply hasn’t been around long enough. While that normally wouldn’t count against a card, the real heavy hitters on this list have been around since the start of the game. The second reason C’thun stays high up is because it needs a very specific deck to be good. Many of the best finishers have a certain amount of versatility or took one type of deck way over the top. C’thun decks are strong but not OP, and this card can only be played in certain classes in a certain style. Those limitations hold it back, but the sheer game-ending power C’thun has makes it into the top 10.
There are many (many, many) big end-game legendaries in Hearthstone, but Ysera is one of the few that acted as a true finisher. What separates Ysera from other control cards is she would be the only threat some decks would run. While there were builds that would stack together a bunch of big legendaries to form an end-game, when you wanted only one finisher, Ysera was the go-to choice. Old Priest and the all-in versions of Control Warrior spent the entire game removing minions, healing and clearing the board until they could slam down the 4/12. Unlike other big minions like Nefarian, Cenarius or Ragnaros the Firelord, Ysera had an ability that would just generate infinite value turn after turn. She was the primary control finisher for the first year of Hearthstone, and only began to cool off when the meta began to speed up during the shift to GVG. The fact that she did drop off the map (largely due to the next inclusion on our list) keeps her at number six, but as far as control finishers go she was one of the best ever made.
5. Elise Starseeker
A card first championed by Brian Kibler, Elise Starseeker is one of the few minions ever printed that was made to solely be a finisher. What makes Elise so interesting is that, unlike most cards on this list, she is a slow-burn finisher, one of the only ones ever printed. Almost every good finisher in hearthstone ends the game on the spot. This stops counterplay and gives many instant winds. However, Elise comes down on or around turn four and has no pay off until the very end of the game. Even so, she is still one of the best finishers in the game, which earns her the spot at number give. Getting a grip full of legendaries is going to lead to a win against slower decks, and has become the way Paladin, Warrior and Priest prefer to end the game.
In Hearthstone’s past, most control decks would have to really stretch out their decks in order to be good. They needed to pack in a bunch of different finishers, thereby lowering the amount of removal or heal cards they could play. The reason Elise Starseeker is number five is because she literally changed the way the game was played. Once the Golden Monkey came along control decks no longer needed to pack in high-end cards that would lose the game against faster decks if drawn too early. Rather, you could play one all-in package which then opened the door for decks to run things like double Revenge or five plus AOE spells. You could include healing, you could play early threats, and all of it was thanks to your finisher that you weren’t going to need until much, much later on. Such a large impact is worthy of number five.
4. Archmage Antonidas
While Mage has seen a wide range of decks that have all played the game in different ways, each one of them ended it in the same way: Archmage Antonidas. Number four on our list, the seven drop wizard is exactly what you expect from a finisher; a card that wins you the game on its own. While it does technically need a little bit of help, casting a few cheap spells has never been difficult for Mage. As good as the above cards are, they have nothing on Antonidas because of how his ability goes over the top. Similar to Anyfin Can Happen, the card truly has no cap on his damage potential, and even without living a turn he’s almost always good for at least two to three Fireballs. That means at his worst the Mage legendary is going to be twelve damage and at his best he is going to eighteen plus (sometimes reaching far over thirty). That is insane for a seven mana minion, and really pushed the envelope on a lot of different lists.
This card was once the end-game plan for Freeze, Tempo and Mech ever since they were first around. It is so inherently powerful that Archmage would be thrown into aggro, tempo, control and combo decks because of how it could steal a game out of nowhere. There were plenty of times you would face down a Mage and run them low on cards only to be hit with the old 5/7, two spells play. All of the sudden you would be staring down lethal and looking at a 5/7 that needed to die on the spot. That is the making of a good finisher. Though his run in Freeze Mage and Tempo has dwindled over time, this card was a staple over such a large spread for so long there was no way it was going to miss the top five. Four may even feel low, but that is just a reflection of how strong the top three cards truly are.
3. Grommash Hellscream
Ever since the dawn of time (or the dawn of Hearthstone) Garrosh has teamed up with his charging brother to kill opponents. Grommash Hellscream is not just a finisher. It is perhaps the most important part of Control Warrior decks and one of the only tools that has stuck with the deck from the early days of beta until now. Almost every above finisher, for one reason or another, dropped off the map. Sometimes it was because their deck faded, sometimes it was because the meta shifted and sometimes it was because they just weren’t good enough anymore. Grommash, on the other hand, does not fit that mold. He is still around and that is the reason he gets the edge over the others to number three. The eight mana orc was one of the best ways to win the game in beta, and he still holds that title today.
Grommash Hellscream is one of the best finishers hearthstone has ever seen, and has seen play in a wide range of different warrior decks. He was strong in Patron, good in Tempo and played a very strong role in combo. However, he holds the three spot because of what he’s done for control. Before Elise Starseeker came along and ruined the party, Gromm was just how Control Warrior beat most decks. You stalled out, maybe did some damage along the way, and then BAM, Alexstrasza into ten to the dome. That got even better once Death's Bite came out, allowing you do swing face and hit with Gromm for fourteen total damage out of nowhere. While Alex was a key piece a lot of the time, she was the set up card. Gromm was the one who put people away. In fact, Gromm is still a finisher even though the dragon is no longer around. It is not that the other cards on this list are better in a vacuum, it is just that Gromm has been doing it more consistently over a longer period of time.
2. Leeroy Jenkins (Pre-nerf)
Say it with me now: LEEERRROOOOYYY JENNKKIINNNSS!!! As good as the above cards are, none of them could top the old four mana version of Leeroy Jenkins. In fact, they aren’t even on the same level. Pre-nerf Leeroy was an incredibly powerful threat that was used in a wide range of different combo decks to end the game. Though the four mana legendary was an incredible tool in many aggro decks, he was a strong source of damage rather than a strict finisher. Here I want to focus on how good he was in two lists: Combolock and Miracle Rogue. Each of those decks may have had some other cards or powerful minions, but they were all just ways to get Leeroy going to the face.
What made the legendary chicken-lover so special is that, unlike most finishers, he could kill you from twenty plus damage without batting an eye. While only a finisher in two decks, those decks were so strong that he deserves this spot. Leeroy was not a card that was ever supposed to be fair. He was a card that was supposed to be buffed to insane levels of damage and kill your opponent in one single hit. There was no counter play, there was no “just need to make it to next turn”. It was battlecry, charge face, GG. Very few cards have ever been able to boast that kind of power. It didn’t matter if the decks were using Power Overwhelming, Faceless Manipulator or Shadowstep/, they all had one goal, which was to win the game with Leeroy Jenkins. He could be number two on what he did with Miracle Rogue alone, one of the most one-sided decks of all time.
1. Force of Nature/Savage Roar
Minions? Hah! We don’t need no stinking minions! There’s finishers, and then there’s Force of Nature/Savage Roar. In fact, this combo was so good that it eventually became known as the combo. While Leeroy is one step ahead of 10 through 3 on our list, nothing comes anywhere close to Force/Roar. This pairing was the way all Druid decks (aggro, ramp, combo, midrange) ended their games. Sure, sometimes they would use a couple of big minions to seal the deal, but their primary win condition was to stall until the combo hit the board. Sometimes that came with one minion, sometimes it came with two minions, but often it came alone.
There are many reasons that the two spell beat down hits number one on my list, but the biggest is that it was the hardest card to play around in the history of Hearthstone. Fourteen damage out of nowhere was always going to be strong, but when that got stacked onto minions it just got disgusting. You had to keep your opponent’s board clear, you needed taunts and a way to mitigate your health. Decks that had no business running the combo (like heavy ramp) would just toss it in because it worked so well. You could break this down and argue that Savage Roar was the true finisher of the pair, but to appreciate the best finisher of all time you really need both cards.
Finishers sure are fun. I always like flashy cards and combo decks, which comprises pretty much everything on this list. Though one could certainly argue about the exact positioning on the list (so many of these are cards are so close) I am happy with the top ten. Finishers are often overlooked when talking about powerful decks, and it was good to bring them to light. As always, let me know what you think in the comments. Hope all is well, and thanks for reading!