Hey, guys. It’s RaFive, with a preview of the currently known cards from the upcoming Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion. I’ll go through each revealed card alphabetically and by mana cost, listing major strengths, weakness, and synergies, and give my thoughts on how the card will impact the metagame. I’ll assign each card a letter grade from A through F depending how competitively playable I feel it is. Here goes!
Dr. Boom summons two of these token servants, which means 2-8 damage (each bot will average 2.5 damage). Your opponent wants to avoid these minions while you want them to die as quickly as possible, which means the bots synergize well with Whirlwind, Unstable Ghoul, and Wild Pyromancer, as well as the Mage hero power and any Taunt-givers like Sunfury Protector. For their mana cost, these little dudes are great, kinda like an RNG Leper Gnome. They’re almost guaranteed to get value — you’d be happy even to see a silence effect hit these guys rather than more powerful minions. Because of high value relative to cost as well as an effect that punishes and weakens your opponent for trying to remove them, they’re excellent minions. Their only disadvantage is that they can only be summoned off an otherwise uninspiring legendary, so their actual impact on a game won’t come in until late and often won’t be a game-changer. The biggest downside to the Boomers is, given how they’re summoned, they’re pretty much just a significantly less powerful Ragnaros the Firelord for one less mana. That said, they’re still solid and will, I predict, see a decent amount of play.
This little fella is basically the neutral Webspinner. He’s a one-drop that pretty much instantly pays for himself between the cost of removing him from the board plus the value gained from the Spare Part card, which is random but provides one of seven effects, several of which are potentially game-changing over the course of an average match (Emergency Coolant and Finicky Cloakfield in particular). The Gnome himself is pretty unexciting, just a Murloc Raider with the Mech type, but the Deathrattle — which, let’s not forget, provides another Undertaker synergy — is a fantastic example of RNG done right, and the Mech subtype means the Gnome synergizes well with Mechwarper and Mimiron's Head. While most aggressive Undertaker decks will probably run this as a superior alternative to Leper Gnome, I also see this card being especially powerful in Miracle Rogue, where it provides extra cheap spells for draw power (and maybe even effectively an extra Conceal if RNGesus smiles), and in Mage, given the synergies with Sorcerer's Apprentice and occasionally Ice Lance.
It’s basically Murloc Tidecaller or Undertaker, for mech-types. It passes the vanilla test in terms of stats and can quickly gain attack to trade up, which makes me feel like it’s basically only an early-game minion. My problem with the master of cogs is that there are just too many superior competitors for this spot in the aggressive decks which are the only builds that could consistently get value out of this fella — aggro builds will generally run Undertaker + Clockwork Gnome, and Deathrattle synergies like Leper Gnome and Zombie Chow or buff minions like Abusive Sergeant will fill out that 1-mana slot much better than Cogmaster in most cases. I grant that it’ll be a lot of fun to throw this guy out on your first turn and then play Annoy-o-Tron as a shield while you hit your opponent’s face a couple times, but ultimately I feel this is a solid minion with more solid alternatives. He’s a solid tempo play (a neutral Flame Imp that doesn’t hurt you, basically) in the right Arena deck, but I foresee he’ll see less play than you’d expect in constructed.
( Armor Plating
, Emergency Coolant
, Finicky Cloakfield
, Reversing Switch
, Rusty Horn
, Time Rewinder
, Whirling Blades
I’m not going to give these each an individual entry since there’s so many of them, they’re all fairly marginal/self-explanatory, and they play off the death effect of Clockwork Gnome. They’re all decent effects with which most players should already be familiar in other forms (Time Rewinder is Youthful Brewmaster‘s Battlecry, etc.). Because of their incredible potential to affect the game’s trades and tempo, I rate Emergency Coolant and Finicky Cloakfield as the best of the lot, with Time Rewinder as the weakest/most situational, and the rest in between. Although none of their effects is (typically) game-changing, you’ll have at least one mana to spare on some turn in almost every game you play, which means the Spare Parts will almost always give you some marginal advantage (maybe even saving control builds from having to draw into fatigue in some cases) and will almost never be completely dead cards, no matter what kind of deck you’re playing. That versatility and bump to mana efficiency makes me rate the Spare Parts as excellent cards, particularly played off Gadgetzan Auctioneer in a Miracle build.
The stats on this card are terrible. At 1/2 for 2 mana, Annoy-o-Tron typically isn’t going to kill anything. That’s not what he’s for. This pugnacious pipsqueak is the ultimate anti-tempo card. He basically reads: “Pay 2 mana and one card. Make your opponent pay more than 2 mana and/or more than one card to continue pressuring your life total.” Pretty much the only use for this guy is to slow your opponent down, and pretty much the only efficient way to remove him is through Stampeding Kodo and Cabal Shadow Priest (where he will no doubt be a favorite target). Expect to see a lot of him in control decks where delay is important, like Freeze Mage; as a tech card to improve card advantage against decks that can’t ping or steal — it’ll be great against early Warrior plays, in particular — and finally, as a cheap card in some tempo-aggro decks like Hunter to delay enemy minions trading while you go for the face (much as Sludge Belcher is used today). I don’t expect he’ll end up as a Blood Knight buff terribly often unless Divine Shield makes a general comeback in the metagame. All in all, I rate him solid but situational.
Here’s another card where the name of the game is delay. Toss one out and your opponent has to kill it lest you employ it on the next turn to blow his minions away… but this will damage and slow his board, especially in the early game when trading happens furiously and minions have low health. The downside, of course, is that it hits your own minions, too, and not one point at a time in that comfortable way that so often lets Control Warrior draw so many cards off Acolyte of Pain. This makes the Sheep a pick mostly for heavier control decks, although I also expect a copy or two will fit in well to cheap, aggressive decks as a cheap, ghetto Hellfire that lets you recover against an aggressive board that has you behind, especially in Mage where Sheep + hero power = a midgame board clear. Due to its inexpensive yet solid board-clearing power and cutesy looks, I expect the Sheep will see a fair bit of play, although it’s next to useless in midrange and tempo decks.
There are a lot of folks out there pretty excited about Flamecannon, and I can’t exactly figure out why. It does excellent damage, being able to kill Azure Drake, concealed Gadgetzan Auctioneer, and Spider Tank efficiently. Particularly since we’re now seeing three-drops with 4 health (with Spider Tank and Dark Cultist), that extra point of damage over Frostbolt will likely be important in the earlier game. However, I ultimately can’t get much behind this card because of the tradeoffs. Compared with its direct competitor Frostbolt, that extra point of damage costs the ability to target the spell, the ability to hit face with the spell, the freeze effect, and the damage synergy with Ice Lance. Those together aren’t enough to justify the additional point of damage; the freeze effect on Frostbolt all by itself has won me many a game. I can see Flamecannon used in highly aggressive board-control builds where the guaranteed early kill-offs are more important than precision and flexibility, but I would otherwise say this card is slightly but definitively outclassed by options already on the table.
This may just be the standout best of the cards revealed thus far. At 2/3, it’s a solid body that easily passes the vanilla test, and its lean toward more health than attack means it’s as sticky as a vanilla 2-drop can be. It’s also a mech, so it synergizes with stuff like Cogmaster and Goblin Blastmage. And then there’s the kicker: it makes all your other mechs cheaper by 1 mana! That’s a HUGE efficiency gain, particularly with cheaper mechs — imagine your opponent puts down Dark Cultist on turn 3 (traditionally considered one of the strongest things you can drop on-curve for that turn), and you answer with Mechwarper, Clockwork Gnome, and Micro Machine! That’s 6/6 of stats on turn 3 compared with 3/4 for the Cultist — effectively an extra two-drop for free thanks to Mechwarper‘s power! Or imagine a Rogue laying down Mechwarper + Clockwork Gnome + Mimiron's Head + Conceal — a nearly unblockable 6 mana play that summons V-07-TR-0N the next turn! Mechwarper is almost literally a demon of efficiency, and you should expect to see him popping up wherever there are mechs. I love this dude.
This pint-sized pugilist gains a point of attack every time either player presses the “End Turn” button. This means that his attack ramps up quite fast if unanswered, making him a solid minion for early aggression — he’s pretty much a more consistent and flexible Murloc Tidecaller. However, your opponent will be aware of the danger of this ramp-up and will probably try to immediately deal with your little robot when he’s only a 2/2 and still not much of a threat, so it’s probably better to think of Micro Machine as more of a soft-taunt card than anything else. I imagine turn 2 Mechwarper into Coin + Micro Machine will be a play almost guaranteed to get a ton of value from one of those two cards, since your opponent has to either kill Micro before it starts getting too powerful, or kill Warper before it cheaply throws out a ton of board presence, but probably can’t do both that early in the game. I also foresee a few OTK deck builds that will attempt to protect this guy using taunts (or something like Master of Disguise) before using massive attack buffs like Windfury or Blessed Champion to end the game with burst damage. There are probably still better 2-drops out there for most decks, but Micro Machine is a solid little contender. He costs more than Cogmaster for an immediately similar effect, but his mech synergy and higher ceiling compensate for this and make him come slightly better-recommended.
He’s got vanilla stats and vanilla cost, and a special ability that turns a minion you carefully selected for your deck into… a minion of the same cost that you almost certainly didn’t carefully build into your deck. He almost certainly affects your board state negatively with regard to the synergies you’re likely to draw into, he isn’t undercosted, and his ability won’t generally turn your minions into something more powerful or otherwise preferable. In constructed, I rate this card as actively harming your chances to win under most circumstances.
There is, however, one situation where I can see him being a potentially incredible card: he’s basically a wonky free heal for any of your minions. Smack that Chillwind Yeti into a Dark Iron Dwarf, then slap down Recombobulator and turn the Yeti into a fresh new Sen'jin Shieldmasta (or hit a Shieldmasta with Shadow Madness and then recombobulate it for perma-steal). Generally speaking, the higher the mana cost of a minion, the more benefit it’ll get from the recombobulation, so this card is best at the high end of midrange. It’ll be tricky to build a deck that’ll make optimal use of the card, which is why I’ve rated it low, but it should be a solid pick in Arena where keeping a strong board presence is more important than having specific synergies between your minions on the board.
Out of all the cards spoiled thus far, Shrinkmeister is probably the star of the show. At 3/2 for 2, his body is a standard vanilla 2-drop, but he comes with an AMAZINGLY powerful effect; namely, he drops the attack of any minion by 2 for a turn. At 2 mana, that’s an insanely cheap card for an insanely versatile effect. It drops Sludge Belcher‘s attack to where two 3-drops can kill it without themselves dying. It puts any 4- or 5- attack card within range of Shadow Word: Pain or Shadow Madness (expect Shrinkmeister + Shadow Madness to quickly become Priest’s favored counter to Sylvanas Windrunner). It puts any 3- or 4- attack card within range of Cabal Shadow Priest. It lowers any 1- or 2- attack card into range for instant death by Crazed Alchemist or the Reversing Switch Spare Part. This card single-handedly expands Priest’s removal and control suite to potentially encompass every card in the game, and it comes attached to a cheap, solid, value-packed body. Priest is already a force to be reckoned with, but it will be the control deck par excellence once this card comes down. A must-have. Oh, and did I mention he’s a common?
You pay two mana and a card for a random minion that costs three less mana. Fantastic if you get Kel'Thuzad for 5 mana; terrible if you get Murloc Raider for free. If we ignore the potential range of variance and focus solely on the average effect, you’re basically discarding a card to gain a 1-mana tempo edge on playing a random minion. This, to my mind, makes the card significantly worse than something like Soulfire, which gives more tempo advantage (about 2.5 mana) in exchange for the cost in card advantage, and also worse than Far Sight, which has a nearly identical effect but vastly narrows the range of variance for only one more mana. This is the sort of card I want to like, but just can’t recommend because the variability is too high. It does, however, cycle itself without actually drawing a card, so it might see limited play in heavy control decks where being able to play with over 30 cards can be critical in avoiding death by fatigue. Outside that highly specific situation, though, I don’t see this card getting much competitive play; it’s simply too unpredictable to count on in your deck.
Here’s another standout favorite from the newly-announced set. It’s hard removal with variance — in other words, the gambling man’s Deadly Shot. The potential for value on this card is insane, if carefully deployed. Played against a solid enemy board while yours is empty, you’ll likely get 8-10 damage in many cases. Play it with Commanding Shout and Battle Rage when you have Enrage minions on your side of the board, and you’ll kill an enemy minion — guaranteed — while also buffing your attack and efficiently drawing a ton of cards. Even if you play it in unfavorable circumstances and it kills one of your own minions, it’s almost guaranteed to inflict significant damage to your opponent’s board in the process. It’s a wonderful card in Control Warrior — play it with two Armorsmith and an Acolyte of Pain on the field and watch the value roll in (and probably watch the server crash from all the animations in the process!). Stack it on Frothing Berserker for oodles of attack points. Play it anytime you need more targets for Execute. It’s weak when there are 1- and 2-health minions on the board because of the ease with which it can fizzle, but overall it’s an incredibly solid card that’s a great example of RNG a skilled player can use tactically to maximal advantage. Bouncing Blade is likely to be a standout favorite of the expansion.
You pay 3 mana for a 2-mana body that draws you a card but effectively puts that card on the bottom of your deck and draws you a Wisp instead if you draw a minion, so effectively you’re summoning a 2-drop and then paying 1 mana for a crappy draw effect. The only top-tier constructed deck that could even consider running this card at present is Miracle Rogue, and even that deck is still over one-third minions, which means that in a best-case scenario, Gnomish Experimenter is a 2-mana body for 3 that draws a spell 66% of the time and a Wisp 33% of the time. Considering you already get a more guaranteed draw for 2 with Loot Hoarder, I see little reason you’d ever play the Experimenter except if for some reason you need an immediate draw before turn 3 (i.e., you can’t run Gnomish Inventor for some reason) but also need a body that can survive a ping from a hero power. I could also see this card getting some play in Hunter because of the beast synergy — a Houndmaster or Kill Command activator for zero mana might well come in handy a lot of the time. All in all, though, I see this card’s effect as too unreliable and difficult to manage, and I doubt it’ll see too much play.
This card is deceptive. It looks like a decently-costed weapon where you aim for a target and cross your fingers hoping it hits. That’s the wrong way to think about the Warmaul. Instead, it’s a weapon where you aim for the wrong target and then cross your fingers hoping it misses — at 4 damage, it’s enough to kill a growing Shade of Naxxramas or a stealthed Gadgetzan Auctioneer, or maybe you aim it at a Sludge Belcher hoping to hit the Mana Tide Totem hiding behind. As such, the Warmaul is essentially a tech card built for Taunt- or Stealth-heavy metagames. At 3 mana, it’s too expensive to replace Fiery War Axe and its Coin-able tempo boost, and at 50% to hit, it’s not consistent enough to outclass the slightly higher expense of Death's Bite, so I predict this will be a weapon that’s popular only in particular decks and particular metagames where it’s important to bypass delay mechanisms. For most intents and purposes, Bouncing Blade is a better option for removal at this cost, and I’d expect it to be much more frequently encountered than the Warmaul.
Without a doubt, this card is the Chillwind Yeti of the new expansion. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity — it’s a fierce, durable neutral minion at a bargain price, with no tricks, caveats, surprises, or situationality. It kills every 2-drop in the game except Ancient Watcher, and trades evenly or better with every other 3-drop in the game. At the same time, though, it’s still balanced! Dark Cultist followed up by Earthen Ring Farseer trades evenly with two Spider Tanks, for example. This is a card that will frustrate players not through a broken effect or unrealistically high stats, but simply through honest, well-costed durability. Expect to see quite a few decks and archetypes giving this card a try, particularly midrange lists, and expect to see a wide metagame shift solely based around the possibility of encountering this card early. All that to say: this is a great card, and one that we’ve needed for a long time now.
The downside of this minion is pretty obvious: he doesn’t work at all in decks that don’t run mech-type minions. In the right deck, though, the Tech is a wiz kid, since he’s effectively a 4/4 for 3 mana that also gives you a Spare Part when you play him. That’s a crazy amount of value. We’re talking close to “needs nerf” territory, it’s so powerful. It’s like Dancing Swords that gives YOU a draw. It’s a 3-drop with no downside that trades with Deathlord, for heaven’s sake! Every Mech Zoo deck will be running two copies of this guy, no question, and I predict Miracle decks will also shift toward mech builds that incorporate the Tech as a means of solid midgame board presence that also gives extra cheap draws for Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Play Clockwork Gnome on turn 1 for insurance; coin out Spider Tank on turn 2; play this guy on turn 3; profit.
It’s cheap. It’s a huge buff, a flat-out superior Mark of Nature, a Mark of the Wild on steroids, Blessing of Kings‘ nimbler and more versatile little brother. Use Shrinkmeister + Shadow Word: Pain turn 4 to take out a fatty, then buff the Shrinker to 5/6, trade him into another fatty, and heal him on the next turn. And then trade again and Holy Nova for 3 damage + another heal on the turn after. The downside? Well, it’s cheap, but not that cheap, so it’s still slower in a lot of cases than dropping a minion. More to the point, it’s absolutely wrecked by silence effects, which, believe you me, are only going to become more common as time goes on. It’s still a solid card, but it needs a deck built to support it so that silence doesn’t hard-counter your game plan. I foresee a lot of players will give this one a spin, especially at lower ranks, but I see it as more of a tech card at the competitive level — for now. It’s strong and versatile enough that I’m not counting it out, even though I don’t think it’s currently a top-tier pick. Should be brutal in Arena, though.
I really, really hate this card. This is an example of RNG done wrong, in my informed opinion — plus it’s just a crappy card. For 4 mana, you get a 2-drop body and an effect worth about 0.5-2 mana, situationally. That means that to get value from this card, you need at least two decent-quality minions already on the field, which essentially makes this card the RNG version of Defender of Argus. Divine Shield and Windfury are excellent effects, while Taunt is generally undesirable on most cards since it guarantees your opponent can trade his minions into them no matter what else is on the board. This means Enhance-o Mechano is basically Defender of Argus that has a 66% chance of giving you acceptable value and a 33% chance of effectively doing nothing (or maybe screwing you over). That’s just not consistent enough on a card that’s basically a dead drop without more than one minion on the field to begin with, so the card is essentially either a “win bigger” blowout or a desperation topdeck. The only place I can see it working competitively is in a fast, aggressive deck with large attack buffs (like Power Overwhelming or Cold Blood), where it’ll be used turn 5-6 on a minion lineup in hopes of scoring a Windfury or two that can then be buffed for some victory-inducing swings to the face. I consequently rate this card likely to induce extreme rage in players when Zoo’s Dark Iron Dwarf and Knife Juggler both get Windfury and the Zoo player has Power Overwhelming in hand, ready to hit you for 22 damage on turn 5 off a lucky crapshoot. (Remember, there’s an 11% chance for two minions to both receive Windfury on any given time you play the card.) Expect this card’s game-winning RNG potential to be at least as controversial as that of Ragnaros the Firelord. A lot of people will run at least one copy just for the blowout potential, and it will win some games, so, although I hate the card and will do my studious best to avoid it, I must grudgingly admit that it’ll be of some benefit some of the time to some decks.
Here’s another example of RNG done right. The Blastmage represents incredible value, delivering four points of board-clearing, trade-enabling damage (so, about 1.5-2 mana of value) behind a solid 4-mana body that’ll trade with Dark Iron Dwarf and Chillwind Yeti as well as Azure Drake and Loatheb. He doesn’t get his special effect without comboing off a mech-type minion, but that’s easily enough done that it doesn’t represent a significant downside. Better still, you can control the dispersion of the RNG fireblasts through careful setup like you’ll see pros do with Avenging Wrath and Knife Juggler. The Blastmage lacks the high health, control power, and Ice Lance synergy of Water Elemental but compensates for this with higher attack and immediate impact, meaning this minion will be a solid, consistent pick in aggressive and midrange Mage builds. You want to play this card when you’re ahead in tempo to take advantage of his pointy face and pointier effect.
At 4 mana for 4/3, it’s comparable to a 3-drop like Injured Blademaster, and its Deathrattle summons a random 2-mana creature, which the game designers rate as a 1-mana effect because of the potential variance. I personally find this clunker a bit underpowerered. It dies to most 2-drops, and then the 2-drop — which is likely not terribly useful to you, anyway — probably dies to another 2-drop, making it a sticky but not especially high-value minion. It’s pretty much Harvest Golem, one tier up, with some variance. Considering how loaded the 4-drop spot is already with powerful, versatile minions, I think Piloted Shredder will end up on the bottom of the bell curve and won’t see much competitive play, although it’s a solid Arena pick due to its stickiness. It’s a decent card, but the 3 health is a real killer to its ambitions and makes it less desirable than other 4-drops that can better withstand attacks by lower-end minions.
Here’s an anti-Warrior, pro-aggro tech card, and not much else. Bling’s 3/4 body is worth 3 mana, but its special ability gives your opponent a similar advantage to what you pick up. Paying 2 mana for an effect that’s duplicated for your opponent AND subject to the vagaries of RNG is just a bit too much to make this bot worth playing in most cases, to say nothing of how quickly that 3/4 body will die coming down on the board turn 5 or later. The only decks I can see definitively benefiting from this minion are hyper-aggressive face decks (where it’s to your advantage for your opponent to hit your minions because of the extra face damage he takes) anti-weapon decks where you avoid Bling’s downside by playing him after your opponent already has a weapon equipped. For almost every other type of deck, there are better options at this cost.
I can’t quite wrap my head around this guy. He’s the body of Earthen Ring Farseer and the effect of Flamecannon, for the same cost as those two cards put together. The two effects (minion summon, 4 damage to random enemy minion) are better divided into two cards rather than one, which leaves me scratching my head as to which type of deck would run the Lobber. The best fit I can think of is a tempo deck where you’re incorporating maximally card-efficient minions so you can have constant value and board development with as little card draw as possible, in which case I could see the Lobber come down on turn 5 to help clear a pesky enemy minion while also leaving a threat on the board in the process. You can do everything he does with as much (or more) mana efficiency using other cards, so while his effect and stats are solid and decently costed, I can’t recommend him to anyone who doesn’t really need the two cards in one.
Much like his cousin the Mad Bomber, the bigger Bomber is a great midrange RNG minion where a robust understanding of probabilities will help you maximize his value — played carefully, he’s a clear superior to the less random but also much weaker Bomb Lobber at the same cost. He’s a fantastic “do better when behind” minion, with a solid 4 mana worth of stats on his body, which means you’re paying only 1 mana for the up to 6 damage he does! Of course, it’s randomly assigned, which means it’s best to play him naked against a well-developed enemy board to hopefully maximize the points of damage that hit your opponent and his minions rather than you and yours. Expect to see him in anti-aggro for his ability to deal significant damage to multiple minions. You’ll also see him in face decks, and I also forecast that he’ll be quite a popular pick in Arena.
He’s basically a Chillwind Yeti who costs one more point of mana with the occasional huge upside of synergystically summoning V-07-TR-0N for a game-winning tempo swing. Strictly speaking, he’s not very good outside of mech-based decks designed to take advantage of his combo (and even then, it’s a three-card combo that takes a full turn and no minion deaths to activate), but I can easily see Rogue builds using Conceal (or Finicky Cloakfield) and holding a Cold Blood for the V-07-TR-0N summon, and even if you don’t have as surefire a way to trigger the Head, its mere presence on the board in a mech-heavy deck will put the fear of God into your opponent and ensure a significant diversion of resources into killing the Head before it can pull any shenanigans. This makes me rate it as a solid and playable minion, although situational and inconsistent because it’s a legendary card (so you can only run one) and the combo is so tricky to pull off successfully.
Upgraded Repair Bot
This will likely be a popular 5-drop in mech-based Priest builds. It trades with Loatheb, Sludge Belcher, and Spectral Knight, it’s faster (and grants a bigger buff) than Temple Enforcer, and the +4 instant, targetable health buff it provides is a serious minion extender, especially against decks lacking in hard removal. It turns Micro Machine into a rapidly-ramping Water Elemental. It holds Mechwarper‘s portal wide open against multiple attacks. The card’s downsides are similar to those of Temple Enforcer: health buffs just aren’t that game-changing, and Upgraded Repair Bot still dies efficiently to stuff like Shadow Word: Death (or Shadow Word: Pain, now that Shrinkmeister will be in town!). Loatheb and Sludge Belcher are still extremely solid 5-drops for Priest and it’ll be hard for Repair Bot to usurp their position. It’s a very good card, but there are some arguably great cards in the 5-drop slot, which drags its relative value down somewhat.
Piloted Sky Golem
This technological terror is a whole different beast from his little brother, the Piloted Shredder. At 6/4, he’s 5 mana worth of stats plus his Deathrattle, which summons a random 4-drop. 5 + random 4 for 6 is a lot stronger than 3 + random 2 for 4, and the 4-drops in hearthstone are typically more powerful pound-for-pound than are 2-drops which is why this guy is a far better value pick than the Shredder. The Sky Golem is pretty much a more RNG-ish Cairne Bloodhoof that you can run two of in a deck, and he’ll probably be a budget replacement for Cairne or even a complete replacement in decks where two such sticky high-end minions are better than one.
Seven Mana and Up
On paper, this card looks tempting. It gets cheaper with each card your opponent holds in hand. In practice, though, the base cost is too prohibitive to make the Giant more than solid anti-control tech card. Your opponent needs at least six cards in hand before you can play the Giant at a really decent value, which isn’t terribly likely even with most control decks if you’re playing well enough to be evenly matched or ahead. In addition, against the archetypes where the Giant would be most powerful — Miracle Rogue, Control Warrior, and Handlock — each of those classes already has a standard card capable of removing it (Sap, Execute, and Siphon Soul, respectively — to say nothing of Big Game Hunter) at a mana efficiency greater than playing the card in the first place. This, sadly, makes me rate Clockwork Giant as a merely okay minion in most archetypes. It does, however, have great synergy as a “blow out fast” card in Shockadin (with Divine Favor), and it’d be an extremely powerful play in any viable mill decks that might arise in the future.
This guy is just fun. He’s an obvious comic book reference, he looks the part, and he summons random explodey bombs that only hurt your opponent — and that’s on top of his well-costed 7/7 body. However, while he is in and of himself a decently efficient minion, slots for legendary cards are the highest-value in any deck, and you have to make carefully sure there’s nothing better you could be playing in that slot. In Dr. Boom‘s case, it’s hard to justify running him when he is significantly slower and less powerful than 8-drop Ragnaros the Firelord, and Boom still dies just as easily to Shadow Word: Death and Big Game Hunter. Since both he and Ragnaros will always be removed from the board as soon as possible, the only significant advantage Boom has is that his bombs disperse the damage between two separate targets, making him — together with his lower cost — a better legendary to run against aggro than Ragnaros. For most intents and purposes, though, Boom is outclassed by the Firelord, and so I must rate him as fairly mediocre for most purposes in constructd. He is a heck of an instant Undertaker buff, though, and he’ll definitely be a wonderful Arena pick.
Archmage Antonidas is a tricky card to use correctly, but his “make an extra Fireball out of every spell” effect is incredibly powerful if properly set up, and wins lots of games in the right decks. Thermaplugg is a lot like that, only useless. He’s hugely expensive; has zero impact when you put him down unless you have minions on the field already; his effect is harder to trigger than Antonidas’ and summons much less valuable / damaging cards; his stats are canted away from his health and toward his attack, making him easily die to every form of hard removal; and the minions he summons get cleared by any damaging effect, even hero powers. If synergy with minion death is a mechanic you want to exploit, just run the cheaper, more easily acquired Kel'Thuzad. The only way I could see to potentially make this deck competitively viable would be to run it in Ramp Druid behind a Taunt wall, generating enough Leper Gnomes to chip the opponent’s health down before Force of Nature + Savage Roar. I predict this card will see almost no play outside Arena, though — unless there are some pretty game-changing new synergies or mechanics still unrevealed in the expansion.
It’s Al'Akir the Windlord on crack AND Viagra, at the same time! Voltron is probably the best minion in the game, if you can get him out. It’s the “if” part that’s tricky, though — you have to draw into another legendary (Mimiron's Head and then get it on the board together with two other mech-type minions for at least a full turn. That’s a tall order and not easily accomplished against any opponent who knows what he’s doing, and so Voltron won’t be seen often (though I predict he’ll appear significantly more often than Thaddius). Although pretty much any deck benefits from having an instant burst of 16 damage distributed over four attacks, Voltron’s power as a finisher is most significant where his Mega Windfury can be used as a force multiplier off a spell like Cold Blood, Blessing of Might, and Rockbiter Weapon to do hilarious amounts of damage. If I interpret Mimiron's Head correctly, you’ll have full mana when Voltron is summoned, so Faceless Manipulator is likely to be a face-melting combo as well. I can’t wait for the VODs of all the Voltron shenanigans!
Sneed's Old Shredder
The body on this fella is 5/7, or about a 6-mana value. When he dies, he summons a random legendary card. While the Shredder itself is underwhelming in stats and has no high impact hitting the board so late in the game, I peg this as a likely excellent value because over three-quarters of the legendary cards in the game are over 5 mana in value, and about one-quarter are 8 mana or above. That means you’ll average about 12 mana in value from this card — plus the Sludge Belcher-ish stickiness that comes from Deathrattle minion summons — for an 8-cost minion. That’s a fantastic value and more than enough to offset the vagaries of RNG. The main problem with this minion is that its immense cost is tough to justify. Only the fattest, greediest control decks can afford to run a minion that costs 8 mana but lacks immediate and specific impact, so at the competitive level, you probably won’t see much of this card outside some adventurous Warriors and Priests. In any deck that can afford to run an 8-drop, though, the Shredder, for all its variance, is likely to be a solid minion of worthy value. Think about it this way: given the number of legendaries in the game, this effectively gives you maybe half as good a chance to draw Deathwing (or any other legendary) as you’d have if you actually had Deathwing (or any other legendary) in your deck. Having a card that gives you half a copy of every legendary in your deck is a solid systemic advantage, all else being equal.
When I first glanced through these cards, I felt vaguely dismayed by all the RNG and figured they would be likely to make the game less skillful. Now that I’ve slept on it and played around with the cards a little more in my head, though, I’m actually really excited. While the RNG is heavier in these cards, for the most part the risks you take are ones you can calculate and shape. The timing and manipulation of these bets in the face of uncertainty is at the heart of skill in hearthstone or any competitive game, and so my verdict is that the new cards do not thus far diminish the amount of skill required to succeed at the highest levels in this game. If anything, it takes more skill than ever now to handle the complexity of the probability calculations involved in making good bets on these particular types of RNG.
Thanks for reading. It was a beast to write on short notice, but I’m always delighted to help advance the current state of knowledge about the game and I’m always happy to help build a better meta together with all of you. See you in-game!