Blackrock Mountain is just a few weeks away, and Blizzard recently revealed a few new cards. While only six class cards have been revealed, I thought it would be a good time to take a closer look at them and see how they might affect the current meta. I’ll update with the new class cards for Druid, Paladin, and Priest as soon as they’re available.
Warrior – Axe Flinger
Axe Flinger is the new warrior card, and it appears to fill a role I’m not certain warrior was ever in need of. Axe Flinger is there to do one thing: damage to the opposing hero as quickly as possible.
It’s stat line is low for its cost, but it’s upside is its ability to deal significant damage to the opponent over time. Without any sort of healing, it’s possible for this to do 10 damage to the opponent from its ability alone. Combined with Defender of Argus or even Earthen Ring Farseer, it can do more.
While it’s unlikely this will see play in standard warrior control decks, it’s certainly a card that a deck couldbe built around. Combined with Whirlwind, Death's Bite, and Cruel Taskmaster, Axe Flinger could be a core card in a new aggressive deck type. This deck would presumably also run Acolyte of Pain, Armorsmith, Frothing Berserker and the new Grim Patron.
It’s hard to say whether this can unseat control warrior as the king of the warrior archetypes, but I look forward to trying it out in the near future. I expect this archetype to have some legs however, and it may even cause Bouncing Blade to see use.
Mage – Flamewaker
An excellent addition to the mage arsenal, Flamewaker fills a relative hole in the three drop spot. While it doesn’t fit easily into any of the current mage archtypes such as freeze, fatigue, or mech, it appears, like Axe Flinger, to suggest a new build – one that focuses on relatively low cost spells.
While it’s inherent synergy with spare parts could see it find a way into mech mage, the fact that it triggers after the triggering spell resolves makes it naturally suited to work with cards like Flamestrike, Polymorph and even Arcane Explosion.
A natural comparison to make with Flamewaker is with Goblin Blastmage, and it comes out pretty well. Goblin Blastmage is an excellent card, but requires a mech build to function. Flamewaker, with its lower cost and decent stats, can provide essentially the same effect in non-mech decks.
I expect to see a lot of experimentation with this card on release. The question isn’t really whether this card is any good – it is – it’s more whether the deck one needs to build around it is.
Hunter – Core Rager
I can’t imagine that Core Rager will see much play on high-ranked ladder in the near future. A 4/4 for 4 mana with the beast tag isn’t awful, but it’s hardly worth an inclusion in your deck. It’s conditional battlecry, while attractive at first glance, is likely to be a little too conditional. Players are likely to find they can’t empty their hand to play it, or they’ll find they’d rather hold on to a few core cards rather than expend them just to get the +3/+3. Because of this, it’s very unlikely to ever see this as a turn 4 play unless the deck is built entirely around it.
Additionally. the fact that it’s susceptible to Big Game Hunter ensures that dropping it as a 7/7 with an empty hand is always a high-risk play. And since Hunters generally lack consistent card draw options, emptying one’s hand to play this is as all-in as a player can go.
If there are more effects that operate conditionally on not having a hand, this could find a place in a new archetype. But with Hunters already proving consistent on ladder, it’s hard to see this making its way into any of the existing decks.
Warlock – Imp Gang Boss
It’s clear that Blizzard is trying to push the demon theme for Warlock, with most of the class’ recent additions promoting a demon style of play. While these decks are now making their way into the tournament scene, they remain rather rare on ladder.
Imp Gang Boss, like Flamewaker, fills a three mana slot that’s been otherwise hard to use for Demonlocks. It’s ability is almost guaranteed to trigger at least once, making it in many ways a 3/5 for 3, which is excellent.
Additionally, along with Mistress of Pain, this is a great target for Demonheart or Demonfire. And if its taunted with Sunfury Protector or Defender of Argus, it’s sure to become a major headache for the opponent.
While warlock has a few ways of dealing self damage to trigger the effect, most of these self damage options will kill any imps already created, which will be a significant drawback to their inclusion in the deck. More likely, this card will see play primarily to trigger its ability slowly over multiple board engagements. I fully expect to see it in demon decks, which I expect will become at least a little more popular with the release of this card.
Shaman – Lava Shock
Lava Shock looks to be one of the most interesting cards of the new set. Shaman has been in a bad state recently, and Lava Shock may just be the shock it needs to jump back into the meta.
Obviously, 2 damage for 2 mana is quite poor. But it’s secondary effect, that of unlocking mana crystals, can seriously reinvigorate decks heavy on the overload effect. As Blizzard has confirmed it unlocks mana crystals locked both on the current turn and on the previous turn, the potential mana gain can be significant.
Imagine, for example, playing Earth Elemental on turn 5. On turn 6, normally 3 of your 6 mana crystals would be locked. With this card, you could both Lightning Bolt a minion and Lava Shock something, freeing up three more mana to play, say, a Harvest Golem with. Then, despite playing Lightning Bolt on turn six, you’d still be able to drop your Dr. Boom on turn 7.
In many cases, Lava Shock will pay for itself or more, effectively being a zero-cost 2 damage sell that might also end up being like an Innervate. Of course, to be effective, decks that run it will likely have to focus on overload cards. However, this is hardly a downside. While it will of course work well with the common inclusions of Lightning Bolt, Lightning Storm, Crackle, and Feral Spirit, we may also see more expensive cards like Earth Elemental and Neptulon return to the game.
For me, the real question will be its consistency – can you bank on having one of these when you need it, or will heavy overload effects still be too hard to curve properly, which has always been one of Shaman’s biggest problems.
Nontheless, I really look forward to experimenting with Shaman following the release of Blackrock Mountain.
Rogue – Dark Iron Skulker
Dark Iron Skulker is a hard card to see fitting into Rogue’s arsenal. Rogue already has a fair bit of AoE, and while a board-wide backstab is certainly nice, it comes attached to a high-cost minion (for rogue) with a stat-line that will see it trade with many two-drops.
It’s also hard to see what sort of deck it might be particularly effective against. Quite possibly it could counter some aggressive hunters, but most of their minions with two health have deathrattles that will still provide value. And at 5 mana, it’s likely to be too little too late. Blade Flurry, Fan of Knives and even just Backstab are more reliable solutions. Against mech mage, it won’t even kill most of their early drops like Mechwarper and Snowchugger, still requiring a dagger hit to clear.
If it had a better stat line, even coming in as a 4/4, I could imagine this seeing some play. But in it’s current state, Rogue has both better AoE and board-control options and better 5-drops.