Aleco

Knights of the Frozen Throne Sunset Article

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Aleco takes a long and lighthearted look back on the accuracy of his KFT set review, the history of the KFT Standard meta, and wraps things up by handing out his "KFT awards" in this sunset article.

With spoiler season for Kobolds and Catacombs upon us, our days with the Knights of the Frozen Throne (KFT) metagame are coming to a close. The most polarizing Hearthstone set in recent memory, let’s take a look at the highs and lows in this KFT “sunset” article. I’ll cover everything from the accuracy of my KFT set review to the state of the meta today, then wrap things up by handing out my awards for the set (such as “Best Design”, “Best Art”, and “Card of the Set”).

 

Pre-Launch: Frozen Throne Set Reviews Hit the Mark

 

After the top set reviewers missed badly on their set reviews for Journey to Un’Goro, the Hearthstone pro community needed a win to restore some credibility. They got that win with KFT, a set that packed far fewer surprises than its predecessor. Though several Legendaries were vastly overhyped (I’m looking at you, Uther of the Ebon Blade) and a few managed to slip through the cracks (sorry Prince Keleseth), it’s difficult to deny that the majority of high-profile set reviews did anything but a great job at predicting KFT.

In my previous sunset article (written for LiquidHearth) I wrote that I would “[make] fun of my own terrible predictions in the next sunset article”. I made good on my promise to make a video set review for KFT, so how did I end up doing?

 

The Rating System

 

I decided to try something different with my first set review by using a different rating system than the rest of the Hearthstone community. Instead of assigning each card a one to five star rating based on its anticipated impact on the upcoming metagame, I rated cards on two different categories: power and versatility. The power rating was intended to reflect how big of an impact the card had on the game when played in a vacuum, while the versatility rating was meant to reflect how many decks the card was capable of slotting into.

Looking back on the set review, I was very pleased with the way that the review system panned out in practice. The dual rating categories did a pretty good job of identifying cards which were powerful in a vacuum but were unlikely to find a proper home once the meta matured, but they weren’t so vague as to unspecific. In my opinion, predicting an entire metagame is simply too difficult of a task to be a practically useful metric for pre-set rating systems, and I believe that the Power/Versatility ratings did a good job of communicating which cards I believed to be worthy of building decks around, experimenting with, and crafting on day one. I look forward to using this rating system again in my set review for Kobolds and Catacombs.

 

Strikeouts

 

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Updated Rating:

  • Power: 5
  • Versatility: 4

One of the most meta-defining cards in the entire set, Prince Keleseth is a card that I’m certainly not alone in reviewing poorly. The Hearthstone community at large was hating on all the three of the princes before the set was released, and there were very few set reviewers who had positive things to say about the unique deckbuilding restrictions imposed by the Princes battlecry trigger. Looking back, the key thing I underestimated about Prince Keleseth was the massive increase in win percentage that occurs whenever this card is played on turn two. The upsides of Keleseth vastly outweigh the downsides when amortized over a large enough sample of games.

 

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Updated Rating:

  • Power: 5
  • Versatility: 3

My entire approach to evaluating this card was totally off. I viewed the Battlecry as a largely symmetrical effect that had a smaller effect on the board than that of the other Death Knights, while in reality this couldn’t have been further from the truth. It’s quite easy to gain tremendous value off of Shadowreaper Anduin's Battlecry trigger with smart play and creative deckbuilding. Though I was well aware of the combo with Raza the Chained, I assumed that a Highlander deck needed to be built as more of a Control deck than a Combo deck and greatly underestimated just how powerful the upgraded Hero Power would be.

 

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Updated Rating:

  • Power: 5
  • Versatility: 5

Arguably the most powerful Death Knight of the entire set, the key to my underestimation of Bloodreaver Gul'dan was the true power of Voidwalker. I took a hard look at all the Demons that would be in standard and determined that a lack of Taunt minions would be this card’s downfall, yet the pesky 1/3 Taunt proved to be more than enough to stabilize a board for a long enough time to take over the game with Bloodreaver Gul'dan's upgraded Hero Power. Surprisingly, this card sees play in every single Warlock deck in the meta, including Zoo Warlock. How many of you at home would have given this card 5 Stars in Versatility before the set was released?

 

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Updated Rating:

  • Power: 2
  • Versatility: 1

I thought the Enrage deck was going places, but there’s no denying that this archetype ended up being a total dud. In practice, the Enrage deck has far too many moving pieces to consistently assemble a powerful board state and does a terrible job at recovering when behind. I also gave Animated Berserker a Power rating of 3, yet somehow gave Blood Razor a rating of 2 for both Power and Versatility. Oops.

 

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Updated Rating:

  • Power: 2
  • Versatility: 2

I can count the number of times an opponent has played Howling Commander against me on the ladder on one hand. Despite the fact that this draws some of the most powerful Paladin cards, it turns out that the tempo hit suffered from playing this underwhelming body on turn 3 is just a little too much to overcome. It also didn’t help that the Divine Shield deck implied by Bolvar, Fireblood (another card I totally whiffed on) never came to fruition.

 

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Updated Rating:

  • Power: 1
  • Versatility: 2

I should have listened! The vast majority of the Hearthstone community was down on Ice Walker, but I wanted to take a contrarian opinion on what I perceived to be a highly versatile card. In my actual testing of the card I found that the body was far too small to actually accrue value in a Control deck, while Tempo decks never had enough leftover mana to get use the Hero Power on their opponent’s biggest threat turn after turn.

 

Home Runs

 

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Updated Rating: Unchanged

Most set reviewers pegged Uther of the Ebon Blade as the top Death Knight in the set, but the highest ranked Death Knight in my own set review was Malfurion. I had a hard time seeing when this card wasn’t phenomenal - it’s great when you’re behind, great when you’re ahead, and fits in every deck that’s interested in taking the game past turn 7. While I’m tooting my own horn, I also pegged Druid as the “most improved” class coming out of Journey to Un’Goro, noting that Malfurion the Pestilent and Ultimate Infestation were two of the top four cards in the entire set.

 

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Updated Ratings: Unchanged

There was a surprising amount of hype surrounding Rogue’s new weapon cards before KFT was released. What I saw was a group of underwhelming cards with way too much setup cost for their actual effect on the game. Runeforge Haunter may end up having its day in the sun if Rogue gets a few new powerful weapons, but as things stand today these two cards are nowhere close to competitively viable.

 

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Updated Rating:

  • Power: 2
  • Versatility: 2

Forge of Souls picked up some of the highest ratings in all of KFT from other high-profile set reviews, but I just didn’t see it. I realize that the Fiery War Axe nerf ended up severely hurting this card’s stock in the long run, but that doesn’t change the fact that the deck-building restrictions for this card are quite prohibitive and that drawing multiple copies of this card is absolutely dreadful - the secret tech is to play just one copy in your decks that are naturally interested in running 4 or more weapons.

 

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Updated Rating: Unchanged

Another one of the most hyped-up cards in KFT, Drakkari Enchanter requires far too much set-up cost to ever be effective. I’d sooner expect Howling Commander to make a splash in the metagame than this total dud of a card.

 

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Updated Rating:

  • Power: 5
  • Versatility: 5

I’m counting this one as a home run. One of the most powerful cards in the entire set, my 4 and 4 rating of Bonemare was somehow way higher than that of the average reviewer. To quote Reynad in his set review, it’s “not really a constructed card, not really worth talking about when it comes to Standard.”

 

KFT’s Launch and the Early Metagame

 

The first few weeks of the KFT metagame were a glorious, glorious time of greed and experimentation. Especially at the higher ranks, the meta was almost entirely made up of extremely slow control decks that lent themselves to long, fun, and brainy games of Hearthstone. A popular post on reddit noted that Hearthstone games had become so long that it was no longer possible to play the while pooping - a small price to pay for the magnificent reward of a true control meta. To illustrate just how greedy and beautiful the early KFT meta was, I once watched on Twitch.tv as Team Liquid’s Dog put N'Zoth, the Corruptor into his Control Mage deck while the only Deathrattle minions in his entire deck were Sindragosa's Frozen Champions.

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The good times couldn’t last forever though. As the meta began to settle down it became quickly apparent that Druid was in a tier of its own. Spreading Plague gave Jade Druid the tool it badly needed to survive the early game, while Ultimate Infestation enabled the deck to overwhelm Midrange and Control decks in the late game. Jade Druid was made even more powerful by the fact that Aggro Druid and Kolento’s Midrange Taunt deck were also tier 1 options, making it nearly incredibly difficult to mulligan against Druid. Should you mulligan for your early game cards to counter Aggro, or mull for your heavy hitters to outpace Jade and Midrange? The mulligan phase became a dangerous guessing game that benefited all three popular Druid builds equally, and the versatility of the class made it nearly impossible to construct a single deck which had game against all three Druid variants. Murloc Paladin managed to post some solid winrates against Druid on the whole, but the other classes just couldn’t manage to keep up with both ends of Druid’s Aggro/Control spectrum.

As Druids continued to dominate, Highlander Priest began to emerge as the clearcut “second best deck” in the meta. Quest Mage had a few weeks where it was able to prey on unrefined Jade Druid and Highlander Priest lists, but an uptick in Aggro Druid and Pirate Warrior brought a swift end to the brief dominance of Archmage Antonidas. With no apparent answer to Druid in sight, the meta quickly devolved into a toxic environment of never-ending, unrelenting, overpowered Druid decks. The higher you climbed the ladder the larger the Druid menace grew... I distinctly recall a ladder session where I encountered nine consecutive Jade Druids at ranks 1 and 2.

The golden age of the early KFT control meta was long dead. The age of Druidstone was upon us.

 

Patch 9.1: The End of a Plague

 

On the fateful morning of September 5th, a beacon of brilliant light beamed through the dark, Druidic clouds that had enveloped the sun for weeks on end. Blizzard announced they would be nerfing five cards, among them Innervate and Spreading Plague, in an effort to curb the historically high winrates for Druid and shake up the rapidly deteriorating meta.

The Hearthstone community was completely split on the nerfs. The majority of players were happy to see Innervate struck by the nerf hammer, but many were claiming that the nerfs to Druid didn’t go quite far enough. Ultimate Infestation, the card that most believed to be the true source of Druid’s power, was left untouched in Patch 9.1. Blizzard was well aware of the huge target on Ultimate Infestation's back, but had some solid reasoning for not changing the card:

Quote

“Our data shows us how good each individual card performs in a deck relative to other cards in that deck. Spreading Plague ended up being the best performing card in Jade and Taunt Druid, Innervate was in the top three, and Ultimate Infestation was somewhere around the middle—but it [feels] much more powerful since it has a huge effect when played.”

The majority of the community had little to say about the nerfs to Murloc Warleader and Hex, but many were furious about the change to Fiery War Axe. It appeared as though several healthy and compelling warrior decks (such as Fatigue Warrior and N’Zoth Warrior) were paying dearly for the sins of Pirate Warrior. These healthy Warrior decks ultimately suffered a near-fatal blow, but is that such a bad price to pay for a ladder without Pirate Warriors? It’s regrettable that so many fair Warrior decks fell by the wayside due to the nerf to “Free Win Axe”, but I’m optimistic that Blizzard is well aware of Warrior’s downfall and will address the class in a future set. For the time being, try your hardest to enjoy a metagame largely free of N'Zoth's First Mate and Brawl.

 

The Post-Nerf Metagame

 

Most would have expected the de-facto “second best deck in the game”, Highlander Priest, to completely dominate the ladder in a post-Jade world free from Pirate Warriors. The metagame had something else to say about that.

A handful of previously overlooked decks quickly emerged as top contenders, including Tempo Rogue, Midrange Hunter, and Zoo Warlock. Safe from the toxic Innervate turns of Aggro and Jade Druid decks of old, these new-look contenders were able to keep both Highlander Priest and post-nerf Jade Druid decks in check. The weeks following Patch 9.1 were a time of experimentation, evolution, and adaptation which ultimately led to a healthy and stable metagame. It’s hard to argue that the nerfs were anything but totally effective at restoring balance to the competitive ladder.

With the play rates for dedicated aggro decks (namely Aggro Druid and Pirate Warrior) as low as they’ve been in years, the door opened up for slower and bigger decks to prey on the Midrange kings which had begun to dominate ladder. The top choices in today’s ladder environment (after Highlander Priest and Tempo Rogue) appear to be Big Druid, Big Priest, and Freeze/Burn Mage. Though none of these decks appear to have unhealthy effects on the meta at present, the new Recruit mechanic is looming on the horizon. Will Kobolds and Catacombs see the Old Gods reign supreme in their last hurrah before rotation?

 

Lessons from KFT: Class Legendaries Disappoint

 

KFT brought us some of the strongest Legendary cards in recent memory: Prince Keleseth, Shadowreaper Anduin, Malfurion the Pestilent, Bloodreaver Gul'dan, and The Lich Kingto name a few. Despite this high volume of heavy-hitting Legendaries in KFT, the non-Death Knight class Legendaries unanimously and unquestionably failed to deliver. Have a look for yourself:

  • Druid: Hadronox
    • Saw fringe play in dedicated Taunt decks in the first weeks after launch. Was never featured in a popular competitive deck.
  • Hunter: Professor Putricide
    • Saw fringe play in dedicated Secret decks in the first weeks after launch. Was never featured in a popular competitive deck.
  • Mage: Sindragosa
    • Saw fringe play in some Control decks in the first few weeks after launch. Was never featured in a popular competitive deck.
  • Paladin: Bolvar, Fireblood
    • Saw fringe play in dedicated Divine Shield decks in the first few weeks after launch. Was never featured in a popular competitive deck.
  • Priest: Archbishop Benedictus
    • Featured in Hemet Highlander Priest decks for a couple of weeks. Briefly saw play at a few tournaments before completely disappearing from the metagame.
  • Rogue: Lilian Voss
    • Never saw play, even in the earliest days of the KFT meta.
  • Shaman: Moorabi
    • Never saw play, even in the earliest days of the KFT meta.
  • Warlock: Blood-Queen Lana'thel
    • Never saw play, even in the earliest days of the KFT meta.
  • Warrior: Rotface
    • Intermittently saw fringe play in Warrior decks as a finisher alongside Scourgelord Garrosh. The card eventually fell out of favor and hasn’t seen play since the first month of the set.

Who would have guess before the set came out that the most competitively viable class Legendary would be Archbishop Benedictus, the walking meme? Despite a decent amount of hype surrounding Sindragosa, Bolvar, Fireblood, and Blood-Queen Lana'thel before KFT’s release, all nine of the non-DK class Legendaries can now be best described as “400 dust waiting to happen”.

In defense of Blizzard, I completely understand the need for cards like Moorabi and Rotface. Not every Legendary should be a slam dunk, and the unique effects which are printed on these cards make the most sense on a Legendary minion. With that said, these kinds of effects rarely (if ever) find their way into competitive decks, and I struggle to see the logic behind wasting so many precious Legendary slots on such narrow design spaces.

With the rising number of complaints surrounding the cost of the Hearthstone, I can empathize with the disappointment that many players experience when their pity timer is reset by one of these underwhelming Legendaries. The somewhat recent change to prevent duplicate Legendaries from being opened does little to prevent these cards from being opened again and again, as these cards have a tendency to be dusted almost immediately after being opened. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve opened Moorabi three times since the release of KFT. Opening a Legendary after weeks of pack opening and finger-crossing is supposed to be a moment of great excitement, yet I found the experience of cracking a third Moorabi in three months to be nothing short of tremendously frustrating.

Adding on to the disappointment of the class Legendaries in KFT was an atypically high number of underwhelming Epics. By my count, only 6 of the 27 Epics in KFT saw any kind of consistent play: Ultimate Infestation, Obsidian Statue, Simulacrum, Dead Man's Hand, Corpsetaker, and Skulking Geist. I was overjoyed to see the number of powerful and highly-playable Commons and Rares in the set, and realize that if cards like Bonemare and Saronite Chain Gang were moved to Epic the cost of the game would be moving in the wrong direction. With that said, I would have liked to see more Epics like Obsidian Statue with safe, boring, and playable text boxes.

Going forward, I’d like to see Blizzard shift the balance of Legendary minions more towards “playable” than “unique and interesting”. Cards like Archbishop Benedictus certainly have their place in Hearthstone, but whenever nine out of nine class Legendaries fail to find play for the duration of a set it’s time to change the formula.

 

Aleco’s Knight of the Frozen Throne Awards

 

Best Design: Deathstalker Rexxar

deathstalker-rexxar-bdbc99fe.png

 

Do you want to build a Zombeast?

One of the first cards I crafted in KFT, It’s hard not to fall in love with the design of Deathstalker Rexxar. Despite being a sub-optimal option in many Hunter lists, I couldn’t help bet include this card in nearly every Hunter deck I built. Whoever designed this card deserves a raise!

 

Worst Design: Prince Keleseth

prince-keleseth-f1b7fd7c.png

 

My problem with Prince Keleseth is not that he’s too powerful, though you could certainly make the case that he is. I have the same complaints about “Prince Two” as I do with Patches the Pirate - he leads to frustrating gameplay experiences for both players. The majority of games with Keleseth in it lead to one of two negative player experiences: 

  1. “I didn’t have Keleseth on two this game, how unlucky!”
  2. “My opponent had Keleseth on two this game, how unlucky!”

A delicate balance needs to be struck when designing cards that impose deckbuilding restrictions. Though this is certainly a compelling design space which has led to a handful of healthy cards (such as Prince Valanar and Krul the Unshackled) this design space has also led to its fair share of meta-defining and incredibly frustrating cards to play against (such as Prince Keleseth and Reno Jackson). Future cards with deckbuilding restrictions stapled to them deserve to be more carefully tested.

 

Most Improved: Raza the Chained

Raza_the_Chained(49702).png?version=24d8

 

Highlander Priest was pronounced dead after the departure of Reno Jackson from Standard, but the printing of Shadowreaper Anduin saw Raza’s fate quickly turn back around. Expect to see plenty of Raza for the remainder of the Year of the Mammoth.

 

Most Potential: Shadow Ascendant

shadow-ascendant-62e9ad67.png

 

Shadow Ascendant is clearly quite powerful, and has recently begun to see an uptick in play during the final weeks of KFT. Aggro Priest decks are starting show some potential, and could easily be on the verge of competitive if Kobolds and Catacombs gives the deck a few more goodies to work with.

 

Best Art: Bearshark
bearshark-46dc522f.png

 

With my sincerest condolences to Snowflipper Penguin, I simply couldn’t bear to choose anything else. Half bear, half shark, 100% awesome.

 

Worst Art: Dark Conviction
dark-conviction-ca1e32de.png

 

Upon closer inspection I can see what the artist was going for in the picture, but something about the way this piece was comes together makes it look like a jumbled mess of knees and elbows. I also have a hard time connecting the art of the card to its name and effect.

 

Best Arena Card: Bonemare
bonemare-a115a19d.png

 

Both Ultimate Infestation and The Lich King are certainly more powerful in a vacuum, but Bonemare's status as both a Common and a Neutral made it an ever-present threat that demanded constant consideration in the Arena. Now synonymous with turn 7, Bonemare has arguably had an even bigger impact on Standard than Arena.

 

Deck of the Format: Tempo Rogue
 

Though it’s undeniable that Jade Druid was the most powerful deck in KFT before the nerfs to Innervate and Spreading Plague, patch 9.1 just one month into the set. Tempo Rogue is the deck that wore the crown of “best deck in KFT Standard” for the longest time, boasting incredibly strong winrates for multiple, uninterrupted months. Just one set removed from ruling Journey to Un’Goro Standard with The Caverns Below, Rogue has proved itself to be the class most capable breaking powerful neutral cards. As the best Prince Keleseth deck in the game, Tempo Rogue is poised to remain a powerful option for many months to come.

 

Card of the Set: Ultimate Infestation
ultimate-infestation-4bb1364f.png

 

KFT is bursting at the seems with powerful cards, but in a set of stand-outs only one card can claim the title of “most powerful Hearthstone card of all time”. Ultimate Infestation was the coup de grâce in pre-nerf Jade Druid, one of the most devastating standard decks in history, and has been the source of more ire than any card in recent memory (including Prince Keleseth). Though it may not be the KFT card with the highest overall winrate, I have little doubt that Ultimate Infestation was the card from KFT responsible for the most tears, sweaty palms, and cell phones thrown across the room.

 

Wrapping Up KFT

 

Knights of the Frozen Throne was a set of highs and lows, of flaws and success. The early toxicity of Jade and Aggro Druid proved to be the catalyst for positive changes in Patch 9.1, paving the way for a stable and healthy metagame to exist for the majority of the set. The nine class Legendary minions will go down as unmitigated disasters, but the nine Death Knights were a resounding success.

With spoiler season for Kobolds and Catacombs off to a shaky start, debates raging over Hearthstone’s pricing model, and complaints are mounting over the game’s increasing propensity for random effects, nothing would silence the critics more than a strong launch for K&C. One of the biggest reasons for optimism in K&C is the surprisingly dynamic nature of the aging KFT metagame, a sign that its cards still have plenty of gas left in the tank. I have a good feeling that KFT will be looked back on with much fonder eyes than it was ever seen with during its reign as Hearthstone’s newest set.
 

- Aleco

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55 minutes ago, Aleco said:

 

Going forward, I’d like to see Blizzard shift the balance of Legendary minions more towards “playable” than “unique and interesting”. Cards like Archbishop Benedictus certainly have their place in Hearthstone, but whenever nine out of nine class Legendaries fail to find play for the duration of a set it’s time to change the formula.

 


Kathrena WinterwispTemporusRin, the First DiscipleKing Togwaggle and even Grumble, Worldshaker.

From the least controversial to the most.

• Rin is a joke, I hope no one disagrees.

• Temporus is far too dangerous, I wouldn't go as far as to say that it has absolutely no use, especially because we all know there is bound to be some kind of glitch, maybe with Nozdormu, but playing on a competitive level I don't think you can get away with it.

• King Togwaggle is at best a 3 mana 5/5 that can only be cast at 8. Come to think of it, your opponent actually draws a card from your deck and most likely plays the ransom card swapping them back... so he actually gets a card from your deck and you get none of his. If you can prevent your opponent from getting the ransom card by filling his hand before playing the King, and your deck somehow has no win conditions (that would actually be a very cool deckbuilding exercise, reminds me of the encounter on league of explorers when Rafaam steals your deck), you could win from there. Sounds really fun, but not very practical, it's not like you can easily fill an aggro deck hand, let alone do it and survive until turn 8.

• Kathrena Winterwisp has a pretty strong textbox, but it's not unconditionally strong like Tirion Fordring, which always gives you a big sticky taunt and potentially an insane weapon. You need big beasts, and you probably don't want small ones, making it really hard to fit her in an aggro deck, unlike the paladin legendary. So you're left with midrange and control. Midrange hunter decks still rely heavily on smaller beasts, and the beast synergy (Houndmaster & Kill Command)... so the question is: can you cut those weaker beasts? I don't think so. Maybe the deathrattle theme fills that gap, but I'd doubt that. That leaves us with control hunter, which is basically non-existent. So, do I believe in this card? No. Could I be wrong? Yes. Do I think the odds are high that I'm wrong? Not at all.

• Grumble Worldshaker, in my estimations, has the most potential. The discounts could enable some degenerate stuff. Question is, how reliably can you extract value from him? I fear it could be too conditional. If you can afford to bounce your entire board, maybe you're already far ahead? Who knows, it's hard to tell... currently I'd definitively give him a try in the evolve shaman list, seems like about the optimal generic deck to use him in, for raw value. Otherwise, it could enable combos on a dedicated deck, making a key minion cost only one mana is obviously very abusable... Gadgetzan Auctioneer comes to mind. But again, how reliably are you going to be able to do that? Drawing a one-of in your deck, having the minion(s) survive one turn... feels sketchier that just trying to get value from random fire flies and saronite chain gang. 

So yeah. I suppose it's less bad, but nowhere near solid uncontested powerhouses. The legendary weapons also look much less interesting than the DK's, and weaker as well. I really think they should ditch a good part of their design team. Starting off by whoever is pushing for these hunter control cards every damn expansion.

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Katrena Winterwisp can be played in a deck that use only high cost beasts like King Krush and have all low slots filled with non beasts cards

You can still use Animal companion, secrets and unleash the hounds to have your small beasts without putting them inside the deck

Summoning at turn 8 Katrena + KK wouldn't be hard that way and if kathrena get killed still summons another big threat like Charged Devilsaur (that doesn't activate battlecry i guess)

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I still see good potential for Grumble, Worldshaker but I would play it in an elemental deck, we already get enough random stuff in K&C no need for more of this shi... by playing evolve :D

But I'm a strange player who tries to find balance between going for having fun and winning games.

I agree, most of these legends are just garbage, very questionable or very niche and if you are only interested in winning games Grumble might not be very great as well but I am going to shake one or two worlds with it ;)

Edited by Caldyrvan

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      Not only do these three classes boast the lowest winrates across all levels of play, they can also lay claim to three of the four lowest playrates.

      Class playrates courtesy of metastats.net
      If you're a fan of one of these three classes, it's time to go back to the drawing board and see what can be done to fix this! In theory, a meta which is trending slower and grindier should favor decks with powerful late-game plans and game-ending combos. If you can't go underneath the control decks with a speedy aggro deck of your own, the best way to beat slow and greedy decks is to be even slower and greedier than they are (mill strategies are a perfect example of this), or to find a way to combo-kill them in a single turn before they can end the game with their own win condition (Quest Rogue immediately comes to mind).
      However, the reality of the current meta is very different from "slow and grindy". Four of the top five most played decks are aggro decks (Secret Mage, Aggro Paladin, Spiteful Priest, and Murloc Paladin) according metastats.net. The more things change, the more things stay the same, eh? With that in mind, let's take a look at a few new and unique decks from each of the weakest classes to see how we can take on the current meta.
      Rogue
      No class was hurt harder by the recent nerfs than Rogue. Arguably the best class in the game pre-patch, Tempo Rogue has fallen to a sub-par 47% winrate according to hsreplay.net. Though the nerfs to Patches the Pirate, Bonemare, and Corridor Creeper all hit the deck hard, Rogue is also being held back by the classes natural weakness against go-wide aggro strategies. With only Fan of Knives and Vanish (and sometimes Blade Flurry) as ways to deal with wide boards, Rogue often has a difficult time catching up when far behind on board. Though cards like Elven Minstrel and Vilespine Slayer do a great job of getting Rogue ahead in the first place, they don't have nearly as many ways to interact with a decent Call to Arms pull as the other classes do.
      Though you could try to tech your favorite Rogue out with every defensive Neutral minion you can muster, this would have an equal-but-opposite negative effect on your control matchups. You can only sacrifice so many slots in your deck to aggro before you turn your good matchups into mediocre ones. It seems that the best bet for Rogue is to accept that you'll lose to the best draws from the best aggro decks, but that you might be able to beat their more mediocre or slower draws with a powerful midgame.
      Gallon's Kingsbane Rogue
      The first solid option for Rogue is a low-to-the-ground build of Kingsbane Rogue by Gallon, who peaked at rank 9 Legend with the deck two days ago:

      This build of the deck skimps on cards like Tar Creeper and Fan of Knives to go all-in Kingsbane. It notably runs two Doomerangs and a pair of Counterfeit Coins to power out weapon-buffing minions like Captain Greenskin. The thing I love most about this list is that it knows exactly what it's trying to do (build a massive Kingsbane as quickly as possible) and it doesn't waste precious deck space pretending to be something it's not. It probably needs to draw really well to beat Aggro Paladin or Tempo Rogue, but that would probably still be the case even if the deck ran more defensive cards than it currently does.
      Ryvius' Quest Rogue
      The nerf to The Caverns Below all but killed the Quest Rogue archetype through Knights of the Frozen Throne, but Kobolds & Catacombs has provided the deck with plenty of shiny new toys. Both Zola the Gorgon and Sonya Shadowdancer give the deck even more ways to copy minions, while Wax Elemental provided the deck with a cheap tool to buy an extra turn or two of time both before and after Crystal Core is active.

      Ryvius, a known Quest Rogue aficionado, was able to pilot this list as high as rank 8 Legend recently. He noted the deck is good as long you "avoid secret mage and aggro paladin", which will likely ring true for most successful Rogue lists right now.
      Shaman
      Whereas Rogue was in a great spot before the recent nerfs, Shaman has been in a rut since the release of K&C. Evolve strategies were happy to pick up Unstable Evolution from the latest set, but nerfs to Patches the Pirate, Bonemare, and Corridor Creeper dealt a major blow to Token/Evolve Shaman's power level.
      Fortunately for Shaman fans, the class is equipped with a healthy number of tools for taking on aggro decks. Devolve, Maelstrom Portal, Jade Claws, Lightning Storm, and Volcano all do an excellent job at dealing with pesky aggressive minions, which gives Shaman a fighting chance against cards like Call to Arms and Aluneth. If you want to beat Aggro decks as Shaman, you can probably find a way to do that without having to get too creative. The trick is finding a way to beat Aggro with enough slots remaining in your deck to still beat Control decks.
      Purple's Mill Shaman
      Mill has classically been known as control-beater, so it stands to reason that any mill deck which can weather the storm against the current suite of Aggro decks should be a solid choice for the current meta. With that in mind, take a look at this beautiful monstrosity of a deck:
       
      Purple was able to hold top 100 Legend with this list for 7 hours on stream. What's your excuse?
      Jokes aside, I actually love the direction this deck is going in and think a list like this has a ton of potential. Murmuring Elemental and Grumble, Worldshaker do double-duty in this list, doubling the effectiveness of both Coldlight Oracle and Jade cards. Healing Rain and Jinyu Waterspeaker excel as both anti-aggro and anti-fatigue tools, bolstering the deck's early and late game at the same time. With so many cards in the deck performing multiple functions, its no surprise that Purple was able to find room in the deck for rarely-played cards such as Rummaging Kobold and The Runespear. As a big fan of Shaman, I can confidently state that this will be the next list I'm looking to test and tune for the competitive ladder.
      Frescha's Mill Shaman
      With so many Warlock's running around these days, Hex is probably as strong as it has ever been since its nerf last September. Until Rin, the First Disciple and Carnivorous Cube become less prevalent on the ladder, the best Shaman lists will probably run a pair of Hexes.
      The fact that Murmuring Elemental, Jade Spirit, and Grumble, Worldshaker are all Elementals could also motivate a mill-focused strategy to build a bit more around the Elemental sub-theme, which is exactly what Frescha did with this list:

      I love the additions of Hex and Kalimos, Primal Lord as tools for combating Warlock, and have always been a huge fan of Hot Spring Guardian in Elemental decks. Though it doesn't heal for quite as much as Healing Rain will in the late game, it serves as an excellent road block for aggro strategies and can even have its Battlecry doubled by Murmuring Elemental or Grumble, Worldshaker. The Skulking Geist serves a tool for beating both Jade Druid and Combo Priest, but can probably be swapped out for a Healing Rain or Rummaging Kobold if neither of those decks are popular on the ladder at your rank.
      Overall, I'd expect that the "best Shaman mill deck" would be somewhere between Purple's and Frescha's lists. There's still plenty of room for growth and innovation within the archetype, and I look forward to much of that myself in the coming weeks.
      Warrior
      Warrior has been one of the worst classes in the game since the nerf to Fiery War Axe, and not much has happened in recent weeks to change that. Though Recruit decks showed some brief promise in the early-goings of the K&C meta, the archetype took up most of the new card slots from K&C and has failed to impress in the current ladder environment. I don't expect Recruit decks to suddenly become playable due to the popularity of aggro, but that doesn't that Warrior fans should give up hope. The three new "armor-matters" cards, Drywhisker Armorer, Reckless Flurry, and Geosculptor Yip, have largely been overlooked due to Warrior's abysmal playrates, but could potentially be used to shore up some of the classes old weaknesses.
      It shouldn't be that hard for Warriors to beat aggro decks if they dedicate enough slots in their deck to do so. Whirlwind. Sleep with the Fishes, Brawl, and Blood Razor are excellent against wide boards out of Paladin decks, while Execute and Shield Slam can deal with problematically large minions out of Spiteful Summoner decks. Against the likes of Tempo/Secret Mage, Drywhisker Armorer and Bring It On! are capable of buying additional turns of time. The real question, once again, is how do we plan to beat Control after we have teched out our deck to beat Aggro? 
      Cocasasa's Mill Warrior
      If Mill Shaman is somewhat viable right now, wouldn't a mill deck with two Dead Man's Hand be playable as well?
      Cocosasa was able to reach top 100 Legend with this extremely low to the ground build of Mill Warrior. The deck features only one card that costs more than 5 mana, allowing it to consistently play to the board against go-wide aggro decks in the early game.

      Cocosasa plays nearly every anti-aggro card I mentioned above, trimming on quite a few late-game cards to do so. Coldlight Oracle and Dead Man's Hand (and sometimes Zola the Gorgon) are the only cards which can actually win the game for you in this list. As the mill plan is the only plan with this deck, this particular build of Mill Warrior has less margin for error when playing against control decks than other builds might. If you're brand new to mill strategies in general, you might want to trim a Cornered Sentry or a Battle Rage for something which can stabilize the board for you on turn 10, such as Geosculptor Yip, Grommash Hellscream, or Rotface.
      Fibonacci's Combo Warrior
      Warrior has frequently been able to cobble together a wacky, janky, and totally off-meta combo deck each new expansion. Fibonacci has brewed up the latest (and hopefully greatest) Warrior deck with an OTK in it, though it would be a bit disingenuous to call this a "pure" combo deck.

      As Fibonacci noted in this tweet, this is really an anti-aggro deck which happens to have an OTK in it. As the deck contains just 4 minions, you'll need to rely heavily on your spells to keep the board clear until Woecleaver can come down and pull out Grommash Hellscream for potential OTKs. The combo kill probably won't be as relevant against aggro decks, but it's a necessary evil for beating other control decks. I like this deck for a lot of the same reasons I like the Mill deck; it doesn't need to dedicate that many slots towards actually winning the game, so it is able to pack a diverse array of answers for aggro decks.
      Conclusion
      There is still plenty of time left in the Kobolds & Catacombs meta for the game's worst classes to turn things around. As the meta is currently leaning quite aggressively, any deck built to prey on aggro should be able to find some modicum of success on the ladder. Anti-aggro decks which can also afford to pack a lean and reliable late-game win condition, such as mill decks or combo decks, might also be able to find success against control decks with slower win conditions such as Rin, the First Disciple. Though I don't expect all of the above decks to become mainstays of the meta, I'd expect them all to perform admirably on the ladder in the right hands.
    • By Aleco

      Anton "Dvck" Lund found his way out of a jam on the ladder. Can you?
      Dvck and Aleco discuss the importance of planning ahead, understanding the meta, and knowing when to pivot your role in a matchup.
      The player interviews I've done with RayC and TerrenceM have been some of the most fun and informative episodes of "What's the Move?", so I was very excited when Anton "Dvck" Lund reached out to me via reddit with a play from a recent game of his. Playing as Combo Dragon Priest, Dvck was able to find his way out of a tough spot against Murloc Paladin. Can you do the same?
      In this week's episode, Dvck and I discuss the importance of planning ahead, understanding the meta, and knowing when to pivot your role in a matchup. For what ended up being a relatively short episode by "WTM" standards, I was pleasantly surprised by how much we were able to break down together so quickly. The interview with Dvck was as fun as it was informative, so I hope to have him back on the show soon! If you're interested in watching some high-legend gameplay, be sure to tune into Dvck's stream on twitch.tv.
      You can look forward to a few more episodes about the Hearthstone World Championships in the coming weeks, but I always welcome submissions and suggestions for future episodes. Did you have a favorite play from the world championships? Feel free to link me the VOD here on Icy Veins or send me a message on twitter @Aleco_P.
      Thanks for watching!
    • By Aleco
      Kolento and ShtanUdachi found themselves in nearly identical situations at the world championships - but did they make the same decisions?
      Episode 14 of "What's the Move?" discusses the importance of being mana efficient in the early game, as well as the relationship between speed and value.

      The Hearthstone World Championships were full of incredible plays, sticky situations, and valuable lessons to be learned from the best players on the planet. There were far too many great plays to analyze in a single video, so for the next few episodes of "What's the Move?" I'll be breaking down all of my favorite plays from the World Championship weekend.
      To kick things off we have a pair of Tempo Rogue vs. Highlander Priest matchups featuring Kolento and ShtanUdachi. Both players drew nearly identical opening hands, but did they did make same decisions?
      If you managed to spot a particularly tricky or interesting play from the recent World Championships, please feel free to link it in the comment section below! I'd love to break down as many viewer-submitted topics as I can in the coming weeks and months, and I have little doubt that I may have missed some of the most fascinating plays from the tournament during my initial viewing.
      Wishing you all the best of luck in the post-nerf meta!
      - Aleco
    • By Zadina

      Welcome to the post-Corridor Creeper meta.
      Hearthstone Update 10.2 is now live worldwide and it's a big one!
      The first change it brings are the nerfs to four cards that have terrorised dominated the meta up until now. Bonemare now costs 8 mana, Patches the Pirate no longer has Charge, Raza the Chained makes the Hero Power cost (1) instead of (0) and Corridor Creeper has been butchered down to 2 attack. You can read Aleco's interesting opinion piece on Blizzard's nerf policy here.
      The second big addition of this patch is the Ranked Play update, which will take effect on March 2018. Players will now drop only 4 ranks with each monthly reset, all ranks will have 5 stars and you will only need to win 5 Ranked games to earn the monthly card back.
      The Year of the Mammoth Bundle is also finally available on the Shop. For $19.99 or 19.99 EUR, you can get 30 packs - 10 for each of the Year of the Mammoth expansions (Un'Goro, KFT, K&C). Don't forget that the Quest for Packs event is still ongoing and an addition has been made to the grand prize winner reward: $1.200 (read here for more info)!
      Lastly, the patch introduces the Wildfest event. From February 19 to March 11, Hearthstone is going Wild! Initially, you will be able to draft cards in Arena mode that are exclusive to Wild. Second, even though Tavern Brawl is usually on Wild format, there will be two special Wild Brawls. The first one is called "Venture Into the Wild" and it will just contain premade Wild decks for each class. The second one, "The Wild Brawlisseum", is basically a Wild Heroic Tavern Brawl, but with a major improvement: the first run will be free for everyone. You can read more about Wildfest here.
      Below you can read the patch notes, which describe all the updates as well as various bug fixes. A massive change is that the timer for the first two turns will now be shorter!
      Daxxarri
      The tavern is buzzing with all the stuff that’s packed into this Hearthstone update! There’s a Ranked Play update, a Wild party, card changes, and a chance to save on packs with a new Mammoth Card Bundle! We managed to squeeze in some card backs and bug fixes too!
       
      Whew! Read on for details!
       
      Ranked Play Update – This Hearthstone update brings changes to Ranked Play, starting March 1st. Read the Ranked Play Updates blog for details! Your reset will not be based on the stars you earned over the season. Instead, you’ll reset to four ranks below the highest rank you achieved during the season. Players at Legend reset to rank 4, 0 stars. All ranks will have 5 stars. Starting in March, you will no longer earn the monthly card back by reaching Rank 20. Instead, you can earn each season’s card back by winning 5 games in Ranked Standard or Wild at any rank. Card Changes – Please read the Upcoming Balance Changes blog on the official Hearthstone site for full details regarding the reasons and philosophy behind these changes. Corridor Creeper – Now has 2 attack, down from 5.
      Patches the Pirate – No longer has Charge.
      Raza the Chained – Now reduces your Hero Power cost to 1 instead of 0.
      Bonemare – Now costs 8 mana, up from 7.
      Wildfest! From February 19th through March 11th join us for a Wild party! Read the Wildfest blogfor details! Wild cards return to the Arena for the duration of Wildfest. Venture into the Wild – A Tavern Brawl celebrating Wild with pre-built decks. The Wild Brawliseum – A special Tavern Brawl where you’ll build and lock-in a Wild deck, and then see if you can take it to twelve wins versus other players! Three losses and your run comes to an end. Your first Brawliseum run is free! Additional runs are available for the same price as Arena tickets. Also like the Arena, prizes are based on number of wins, and follow the Arena reward structure.
      Year of the Mammoth Bundle For a limited time, purchase 10 packs each of Journey to Un’goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, and Kobolds & Catacombs—a total of 30 packs!—for a special price.
       
      Added the following card backs: Sparkles - Acquired from achieving Rank 20 in Ranked Play, February 2018.
      Year of the Mammoth – Acquired from winning five games in Ranked Play, March 2018.
      Bug Fixes & Updates Gameplay
      The turn timer for the first two turns of a match are now shorter, though they should still be significantly longer than most players take on those turns. Switching from Valeera the Hollow to Deathstalker Rexxar will now correctly allow Rexxar’s Battlecry to destroy minions buffed to 2 health by Stormwind Champion or similar effects. Nemsy Necrofizzle’s Hero frame is now golden if you have unlocked the golden Warlock Hero. Removed rarity gems from several summoned minions. Playing multiple copies of Temporus in a row will now queue up sequences of two turns for your opponent and two turns for you. Fixed a bug where the Divine Shield provided by Elixir of Purity could not be silenced. Spectators now see green highlights on playable cards for both players. Fixed an issue that could cause Hearthstone to freeze when a spectated player disconnects and their opponent concedes. Tooltips for Hero Cards now appear correctly when spectating. Resolved a crash that could occur when drawing a Darkness Candle spell after The Darkness is no longer dormant. Grand Archivist can now correctly cast the Darkness Candle spell if it is present in a player’s deck. Resolved a crash that could occur when certain cost reducing cards were played. Resolved an unintended interaction that could occur with Anomalus, Taunt minions, and Commanding Shout. Added missing Collection Manager tooltips to several cards. Resolved an issue that could cause a player to become stuck when reconnecting before the first turn. Resolved an issue that would prevent the progress notification for more than one Daily Quest from being shown after a match is complete. Ice Breaker now correctly destroys Rotface without activating his effect if he is Frozen. Resolved interface issues that could arise when retiring an Arena game. Resolved an issue that would allow the Friends menu to remain active while a Friendly Challenge is active. Fixed various minor visual and text issues. Dungeon Run & Adventures
      The cards that appear in several loot categories have been adjusted slightly. Cards stolen by Gloves of Mugging now appear in history tile when played by an opponent. Resolved a visual issue with Candlebeard’s charge enchantment banner. [Adventures] Atramedes now correctly uses his Hero Power whenever he should. Mobile
      Resolved an issue with the Collection Manager that could allow the set filter to be interacted with behind the “Done” button. Scrolling through an Arena deck on a mobile device will no longer generate unnecessary prompts. The “Back” button will now function correctly after an Arena run is complete. History tiles that were queueing up while viewing a history event now populate correctly. Resolved an issue that could cause crafted cards to remain visible over the Collection Manager. Corrected a visual issue with the search bar in the Collection Manager. [Android] Resolved an issue with the download progress indicator. [iOS] Compatibility now requires iOS 8.0 or later. [iOS] The client will no longer sometimes freeze when a spectated player wins a match.   (source)
    • By Zadina

      According to the Principal Game Designer, Cubelock isn't as powerful as it seems.
      Cubelock won't be touched in the upcoming balance changes which, for many people, is a sign that the deck will completely dominate the meta after said changes become active.
      The deck is already prominent enough that people have started making false claims about it. A Reddit user claimed that he faced 17 Cubelocks in a row! However, Mike Donais put the matter into place by saying that there was no such streak in Blizzard's internal data and that Cubelock is currently the 12th best deck.
      He subsequently explained that he expects the deck to rise after the nerfs, but he's not too worried because it's a challenging (and expensive, I would add) deck to master. If the team feels that Cubelock is too powerful, though, they will evaluate it.
      mdonais
      I just checked the data, and no one played 17 cubelocks in a row today.
      If you are indeed having trouble with Cubelock there are several decks that beat it consistently right now. It is currently the 12th best deck.
      I did enjoy the title of your post though. (source)
       
       
      A couple people asked why the stats I mentioned don't metch VS power ranking so I looked up VS 79 and across all rankings Control Warlock is the 10th best deck. I assume they mix control and cube warlock in their stats. We have decks broken out a bit more but 10th gives you the general idea.
      Obviously after the nurfs it will be stronger since none of the cards in cubelock are being nurfed and that concerns me but it is a pretty challenging deck with a lot of opportunities to show off player skill. People will eventually get better at playing it, but people will also put in more weapon destruction or silence cards if it gets more popular.
      I am excited to see what people figure out after the patch. If Warlock is a big problem after people have some time to adjust and tune the new decks then we will look into it. I have said many times before that win rate is not the most important factor in our nurf decisions. How people feel matters more, so we will listen to players and make decisions based on that, just like we did in the past with Quest Rogue and Patron Warrior. (source)