kelvin-brm-analysis

Introduction

The final wing for the Blackrock Mountain expansion has been released, with the theme for this expansion being Dragons and creating synergies from holding Dragons in the hand. The key questions arising from the expansion have been:

  • How good are the new cards?
  • How has the meta changed?

This two-part series will aim to answer these questions in light of the full release of the Blackrock Mountain expansion. It discusses the initial expectations from the community for each card, a final review of the card and its effect on the meta.

Grim Patron

Initial expectations

Expectations were moderate for Grim Patron

. Some players saw its potential for filling out the board with Grim Patrons, and the possibility of a One Turn Kill (OTK). However, others noted that it might be too inconsistent to play, as comboing Grim Patron with other cards (i.e. Warsong Commander
, Whirlwind
, Frothing Berserker
) would result in many games where these cards sit idle in your hand, waiting for the final combo piece.

Effect on the meta

Grim Patron has been the biggest surprise of all the new cards released, with the card greatly exceeding community expectations. Before the release of Blackrock Mountain, you could safely assume that your Warrior opponent was playing Control Warrior, as Maths Warrior was relatively unreliable and unpopular.

However, after the release of Blackrock Mountain, the popularity of the Grim Patron Warrior has skyrocketed, with a number of talented players reaching number 1 Legend with Grim Patron Warrior decks. From my own experiences, I have faced more Grim Patron Warriors than traditional Control Warriors on the ladder.

To counter the problem of consistency in Grim Patron Warrior decks, cards such as

, Acolyte of Pain
, Gnomish Inventor
and Battle Rage
are included to cycle through the deck quickly in order to find your combo cards.

The focus of these decks is to combo Grim Patron with Warsong Commander

and Frothing Berserker
, while maximising card draw. Emperor Thaurissan synergises particularly well with this deck, as it reduces the mana required for this combo, as well as creating situations where you can OTK your opponent.

The reason why this deck is so popular is because it has less unfavourable match-ups than Control Warrior, with traditionally unfavourable match-ups such as Midrange Paladin and Zoolock being favourable for Grim Patron Warrior. It also has the element of surprise, as many players do not understand how to play against it.

However, while Grim Patron is not that vulnerable to single target damage (as these decks will rarely play Grim Patron without an activator for its effect), it is susceptible to decks with high AOE damage. Hence, Handlocks and Control Warriors are a bad match-up for Grim Patron decks, as they have enough AOE to clear multiple Grim Patrons.

Gang Up

Initial expectations

Initial expectations for Gang Up

were low, as people noted that the delayed effect of putting cards into the deck is too unreliable for competitive play, drawing comparisons to Iron Juggernaut
and Malorne
. The problem with the delayed effect is that it could be spending 2 mana for no value, due to not drawing into the cards that were duplicated.

Some players noted that it could be a good addition to Mill Rogue, though this deck is not reliable enough for competitive play.

Effect on the meta

Initial expectations for Gang Up have been accurate, as it has not had much effect on the meta. However, it has made Mill Rogue more viable, as Gang Up creates 6 additional cards, and thus, creates a situation where your opponent will fatigue faster. Gang Up is typically used on Coldlight Oracle

for the card draws to mill your opponent, or on Antique Healbot to outlast your opponent.

While these decks are often described as gimmick or “troll” decks, they have the capability of being a very competitive deck due to the surprise element from playing these decks.

For example, I played against a Rogue on the Legend ladder assuming that he was an Oil Rogue. However, he only revealed himself to be a Mill Rogue after turn 5 when he played a Coldlight Oracle. Unfortunately, this was already too late as I could not use all my cards in time, and consequently had my damage cards burnt from the overdraw.

Resurrect

Initial expectations

Initial expectations were moderate for Resurrect

. Some players recognised the potential of this card, as it can yield significant value when it restores a high value minion.

However, other players questioned the value of this card, noting that it is yet another situational Priest card that does not help address the main weakness of Priest decks (i.e. too many situational and reactive cards). Furthermore, some worried that the card is not consistent enough, as it can resurrect low mana minions as well.

Effect on the meta

While Priests are relatively unpopular in the meta, this card has created a new type of Priest deck that consists of playing high value minions to guarantee maximum value from Resurrect. The dream start for these decks would be to start with Injured Blademaster, before using Resurrect to summon an Injured Blademaster that is at full life (due to the Battlecry not triggering when using Resurrect). Usually, the win condition from these decks is creating large tempo swings from Resurrect.

Hence, it is possible to design your deck so that the RNG element of using Resurrect is skewed in your favour by having only high value minions. In that sense, it is better than Unstable Portal as you can control its outcome.

However, like with all decks that rely on a key card (eg. Ramp Druid with Wild Growth), the problem is when you do not draw Resurrect, as the deck is reliant on it to out-tempo your opponent.

Emperor Thaurissan

Initial expectations

Expectations for Emperor Thaurissan

were extremely high, as most players recognised the value of mana reduction effects, such as Mech Warper. Many people believed that Emperor Thaurissan would be an automatic inclusion in all Midrange and Control decks.

Essentially, each turn Emperor Thaurissan creates an Innervate

for every 2 cards that are in the hand. Hence, players noted that this could be particularly devastating for Combo decks, as it has the potential to allow for combos to be used earlier, such as Force of Nature and Savage Roar combo at turn 7 rather than 9.

Effect on the meta

While Emperor Thaurissan has made a significant impact on the meta, it has not been an automatic inclusion in all Midrange and Control decks. It is only beneficial for decks that have adequate card draw, as well as Combo decks such as Grim Patron Warrior, Malygos Rogue and Combo Druid.

Hence, Emperor Thaurissan does not fit in decks that are likely to involve “top-decking” from the mid to late game, such as Midrange and Face Hunter, and Tempo Mage. This is because Emperor Thaurissan’s main value is through creating large tempo swings using the mana reduction mechanic. However, for decks that do not have much card draw, Emperor Thaurissan creates little value as these decks have no issues playing all their cards regardless.

Quick Shot

Initial expectations

Initial expectations were high for Quick Shot

, as it is basically a Dark Bomb (which is universally accepted as a good card) with a potential card draw. Most saw that Quick Shot would greatly aid Face Hunter decks, as it provides the additional burst over taunt. It also can help control the board early game, with Nuba noting in his Blackrock Mountain Card Review that it hard counters Zombie Chows, which are the bane of Face Hunters and Aggro decks in general.

However, Brian Kibler noted that the decklist for Face Hunter is relatively stacked with important cards, and it is difficult to find a slot for Quick Shot.

Effect on the meta

From my experiences on the ladder, Quick Shot

has been adopted by almost all Face Hunters. In the worst case scenario, Quick Shot is a guaranteed 3 damage to the face over Taunt for 2 mana. It is particularly powerful in the late game with the card draw mechanic, as Face Hunters often have their opponents on low health, but lack the resources to finish their opponent.

In these instances, Quick Shot will do 3 damage to the face, while also providing a high probability of drawing into further damage to finish your opponent.

Surprisingly, Quick Shot has also been adopted by Midrange Hunter, with Era’s number 1 Legend Midrange Hunter featuring two of them. The addition of Quick Shot to Midrange Hunter makes the deck slightly faster as it allows for the possibility of bursting your opponent down earlier.

Dragon’s Breath

Initial expectations

Expectations were low for Dragon's Breath

. This is due to:

  • The high mana cost of the card
  • Mages having many options for removal/burn spells (i.e. Frostbolt, Flamecannon, Fireball).

However, some players argued that it might see play in the ladder due to its cost reduction effects. Traditionally, cost reduction mechanics are very powerful, as evidenced by Mech Warper being the driving force behind Mech Mage.

For example, you can reduce the mana cost of the spell to 3 by just by trading one minion into your opponent’s minion (and they both die as a result). Furthermore, it can be used after an AOE, which could help clear a board that does not board with one large minion and many small minions. Others noted that it could synergise well in a Freeze Mage deck, as it could be a free 4 damage spell after a Doomsayer turn.

Effect on the meta

The initial expectations for Dragon’s Breath were accurate, as I have not seen this card being played on the ladder.

Druid of the Flame

Initial expectations

Expectations were low for Druid of the Flame

. This is due to:

  • A 5/2 minion for 3 mana is useless in most instances as all classes have many options to remove 2 health minions
  • A 2/5 minion is mediocre at best.

However, Nuba noted that Druid of the Flame could have some potential, as a 5 health minion on turn 3 is very difficult to deal with. Furthermore, its 5/2 minion form can trade up with higher value minions, provided that it is protected by a big Taunt.

Effect on the meta

Druid of the Flame has not made a significant impact on the meta as Combo Druids (the most popular Druid deck) have not included it in their decks. However, I have encountered a handful of Ramp Druid decks that feature Druid of the Flame.

While playing against these decks with Oil Rogue, I experienced firsthand how difficult it is to take board control when your opponent plays Druid of the Flame early. It also only costs 3 mana, which means that you cannot waste many resources to clear it, as it is optimal to save your premium removals for higher value minions.

Blackwing Technician

Initial expectations

Expectations were moderate, with most recognising that in its ultimate form, a 3/5 minion on turn 3 is very strong. This is because its 3 attack allows it to remove most early game minions, while its 5 health allows it to usually stay on the board for a few turns.

However, the problem with Blackwing Technician

is that it requires a Dragon in hand in order to reach its potential. This is a particularly challenging condition to satisfy, as Dragons are often late game minions that you do not want in your hand early game. Hence, it is difficult to mulligan for a smooth curve if you need to keep late game Dragons in your hand to trigger the Blackwing Technician ability.

Effect on the meta

Dragon decks have been popular since the final wing of Blackrock Mountain was released, and Blackwing Technician is often an inclusion in these decks.

In its 3/5 form, it has played out to expectations, with a 3/5 minion providing a strong board that is both sticky (with 5 health) and trades well with all minions at that point. Even without a Dragon in hand, a turn 3 2/4 minion is relatively hard to remove, and trades well with 1-2 mana drops.

However, Dragon decks thus far have been somewhat underwhelming in general, as they are currently too slow for the meta.

Imp Gang Boss

Initial expectations

Initial expectations for Imp Gang Boss

were high, with most players recognising its board stickiness and ability to create board presence when damaged. Many players noted that this card would synergise well with Zoo decks, as it provides a sticky minion that also creates additional board presence, which is the lifeblood of Zoo decks.

Others noted that Imp Gang Boss provides a strong 3-mana drop that was missing from Demonlock decks.

Effect on the meta

The release of Imp Gang Boss

has resulted in the re-emergence of Zoolocks, which have flooded the ladder.

Imp Gang Boss is a high value minion in these decks as Zoo decks are all about attaining and keeping board control and Imp Gang Boss is an incredibly resilient minion that can survive and punish AOE. It is particularly punishing against effects that deal one damage at a time, such as Goblin Blastmage

and Flamewaker
.

That said, Imp Gang Boss does not adequately deal with Swipe, as targeting the Imp Gang Boss with Swipe will currently remove the 1/1 token that spawns after Imp Gang Boss dies. However, this was confirmed as a bug by hearthstone Game Designer Ben Brode.

Imp Gang Boss has also featured prominently in Demonlock decks, and hybrid Demonlock and Zoo decks.

Majordomo Executus

Initial expectations

Initial expectations for Majordomo Executus

were very low, with most predicting that it is the weakest card in the Blackrock Mountain expansion. While the effect of summoning Ragnaros as a hero is a novel idea, the main issue with this card is that it reduces your life total to 8, which could swing the game around. Therefore, Majordomo Executus is a card that has benefits your opponent more than yourself.

For example, imagine being on 30 health, and on the verge of victory. However, you play Majordomo Executus, which subsequently gets BGH’d and you die to board damage on the same turn. This scenario is quite probable, due to the prevalence of the dwarf with his big gun.

Effect on the meta

The initial expectations for this card were very accurate, as I have not seen this card in competitive play, except when I watch streamers troll with this card, only to lose when they are in a significantly advantageous position.

Axe Flinger

Initial expectations

Expectations were low for Axe Flinger

. This is due to:

  • The poor base value of the minion (4 mana for a 2/5 minion)
  • Its special ability not being useful for Control Warrior decks
  • Maths Warrior currently not being a viable class due to its lack of consistency.

Effect on the meta

The initial expectations for this card were relatively accurate, as Axe Flingers have not been a popular card. However, these expectations were before the rise of the Grim Patron Warrior decks, which benefit from the Axe Flingers special ability.

That said, most Grim Patron Warriors are not using Axe Flingers, as the popular Grim Patron decks (such as Th3 Rat’s Grim Patron Warrior) favour using Gnomish Inventor as the 4 drop of the deck for the card cycle.

Lava Shock

Initial expectations

Lava Shock

polarised the hearthstone community. Some believed that it was an overpowered card, arguing that it effectively creates mana by unlocking both overload crystals from the previous and current turns. Hence, it can allow you to out-tempo your opponent.

However, others argued that it is a weak card, noting that it does not address the lack of card draw in Shaman decks.

Effect on the meta

When this card was first released, I saw a handful of Shamans trying it out while also including many Overload cards such as Doomhammer

and Earth Elemental
and cards that benefit from Overload such as Unbound Elemental
. However, these decks quickly dropped out of the meta.

The problem with this card is that it is simply too situational, as it requires the perfect conditions to maximise its value. For instance, you would need to have at least two Overload crystals unlocked from it. Furthermore, you are essentially converting 2 mana crystals into 2 damage, which you would need to use effectively (i.e. not just hit face for 2 damage in the early game). While Lava Shock has the mechanic that unlocks all Overloaded crystals in the current turn as well, it is difficult to have enough mana to use an Overload card before using Lava Shock in the early and mid game.

For example, using Feral Spirit

on turn 4 would result in only having 3 mana to use on turn 5. This means that you cannot use Lightning Storm and then Lava Shock to remove the Overload crystals stemming from the Lightning Storm
.

Simply put, 2 mana is too expensive to clear the Overloaded mana, which in many cases is actually less than 2 mana to begin with. It is also very difficult to Overload yourself by more than 2 mana.

Core Rager

Initial expectations

Expectations were low for Core Rager

. In its original form, 4 mana for a 4/4 is poor value. In context, Lost Tallstrider
is a 5/4 minion for 4 mana that has not seen any play (other than from a random draw due to Webspinner
).

However, with an empty hand, Core Rager is 4 mana for a 7/7 minion, which is very good value. Unfortunately, having an empty hand is not a good position to be in for most decks. Some noted that it could be used in a Face Hunter deck, given their high likelihood of having an empty hand by late game.

Effect on the meta

The initial expectations for this card were accurate, as I have not seen this card in competitive play.

Dragon Consort

Initial expectations

Dragon Consort

was significantly hyped prior to its release, as mana reduction effects are very powerful in Hearthstone, as evidenced by Mech Warper and Emperor Thaurissan. Effectively, this card is a 5/5 minion for 5 mana that also provides a conditional Innervate (for dragons).

The only concern about this card was whether the other Dragon cards are strong enough to create a Dragon Paladin deck.

Effect on the meta

This card has had a significant impact on the meta, with many Paladins changing to Dragon Paladin decks.

Dragon Paladins use Dragon Consort as the engine of their build. The win condition for these builds is to constantly put big dragons onto the board. In particular, Dragon Consort is best used to set up for a turn 7 Ysera

, which is very difficult for most classes to deal with at this stage of the game.

Given the number of dragons, these decks also benefit from using cards that gain from holding dragons in the hand, such as Rend Blackhand and Blackwing Technician.

However, Dragon decks thus far have been somewhat underwhelming, as Dragon decks are slow. The other issue with Dragon Paladin is that the 5 mana slot is stacked, as Paladins need to include Dragon Consort.

Dragon Egg

Initial expectations

Expecations for Dragon Egg

were low, as it was widely perceived to be an inferior version of Nerubian Egg. In the case of a Nerubian Egg, it spawns a 4/4 upon death, while Dragon Egg spawns 2/1 tokens each time it takes damage.

While Dragon Egg is inherently sticky, 2/1 tokens are just not a threat on the board, and can easily be cleared for most classes.

Effect on the meta

The initial expectations for this card were accurate, as I have not seen this card in competitive play.

Rend Blackhand

Initial Expectations

Expectations for Rend Blackhand

 were low, with the community noting that the card is too conditional as it can only remove a legendary, and requires that you are holding a dragon at the same time. Others noted that its 8 attack makes it vulnerable to BGH, and that it is relatively fragile with only 4 hp.

However, Brian Kibler believed that this card is very powerful. While he acknowledged these issues, he noted that everybody is running Dr. Boom in their deck. He also noted that there are many legendaries that BGH cannot remove, such as Kel’Thuzad, Malygos and Ysera, which Rend Blackhand can remove with a dragon in hand.

Effect on the meta

I have played against a number of Dragon Paladins that have incorporated Rend Blackhand into their decks. It delivers a significant tempo swing when used, particularly when it eliminates a high mana legendary that is difficult to remove, such as Ysera.

To address the issue of the consistency, decks need to run an appropriate number of dragons so that Rend Blackhand’s Battlecry can consistently be triggered. Many of the new Dragon decks have included around 7 dragons to balance maximising the probability of having a dragon in hand with keeping the core Paladin cards in the deck.

Twilight Whelp

Initial Expectations

Expectations for Twilight Whelp

were moderate, with some noting that a 1 mana 2/3 minion is good value. However, others worried that it is too situational as it requires a Dragon in hand, which could make it difficult to have a strong curve. Furthermore, Priests already have Zombie Chow as their 1 drops, as giving your opponent 5 health from its Deathrattle is not a concern for Priests.

Effect on the meta

So far, Twilight Whelp has not affected the meta as Dragon Priest has been relatively unpopular. That said, Dragon decks in general have been somewhat underwhelming, as they are currently too slow for the meta.

Volcanic Lumberer

Initial Expectations

Expectations for Volcanic Lumberer

were low. In its base form, a 7/8 minion for 9 mana is terrible value. Even when you consider the cost reduction mechanics of the card, Druids do not have the small minions or AOE removals to take advantage of this ability.

On average, Volcanic Lumberer is a 7/8 Taunt minion for 7 mana, which is mediocre value given that Dr. Boom is 7 mana for a 7/7 minion and 2 Boom Bots. It is also inferior to Ancient of War as it is vulnerable to BGH.

Effect on the meta

The initial expectations for this card were accurate, as I have not seen this card in competitive play.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading the first part of my review of the Blackrock Mountain expansion. Stay tuned for the second part of my review, which will focus on the cards released in wings 4 and 5.

If you have enjoyed the article, please give me a thumbs up! Feel free to leave any comments below or message my twitch channel (stream forthcoming): www.twitch.tv/k3lvhs

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