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Ten Biggest Surprises From Kobolds & Catacombs

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The first week of K&C has brought has many surprises, including Corridor Creeper and the No-Minions Hunter deck.

After just one week with the new Kobolds & Catacombs cards it feels a little early to declare a definitive tier list for the competitive ladder. It's safe to assume that the best decks from the previous format, Tempo Rogue and Highlander Priest, will remain competitive options in the K&C meta, but many new decks have already been discovered which appear more than capable of keeping up with the top decks from KFT.

The first week of K&C has been packed with surprise stand-outs and unexpected strategies. A staggering number of powerful new Epic cards are defining a number of new archetypes, while a decent number of cards which were expected to define the meta have yet to find a home. To help catch you up to speed on the state of the ladder, let's count down ten of the biggest surprises from the still-developing K&C meta:

#10 - Big Spells Mage

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Five of the ten new Mage cards were designed around the Big Spells theme, yet Mage isn't even the class which is currently making the best use of Spiteful Summoner and Grand ArchivistDragon's Fury was predicted to be one of the top cards in K&C but Big Spells Mage has failed to put up impressive results. Endemic Mage spells such as FrostboltArcane Intellect, and Primordial Glyph drag down the power level of cards like Raven Familiar too far to justify their inclusion in Big Spells decks, yet the minion-based replacements for these cards have yet to prove themselves as suitable tools for controlling the board in the early game. With how aggressively the current metagame is shaping up to be, Big Spells Mage will need to find a way to control the board before turn five if it ever wants to compete.

#9 - Druid Decks

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Coming out of Knights of the Frozen Throne, Druid laid claim to three of the best decks in all of Hearthstone: Aggro Druid, Jade Druid, and Big Druid. Though none of these decks have become unplayable K&C, it'd be difficult to argue that any of them are Tier 1 options at the moment. Dire Mole was a huge pickup for Aggro Druid, the Master Oakheart/Dragonhatcher package has provided Big Druid with a consistent late-game plan, and Lesser Jasper Spellstone has given Jade Druid a meaningful tool for interacting with troublesome minions in the early game, but it seems as though the other classes have improved far more than Druid has. Druid's Recruit sub-theme has seen moderate success, and the archetype still has plenty of room to improve as the meta matures. Despite Druid's lackluster results so far, I'd expect that the class has far too many powerful tools to ever become irrelevant. I wouldn't be surprised to see a new-look Recruit deck start to put up results in the coming weeks.

#8 - Tempo Mage

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Tempo Mage was a deck that teetered on the edge of Tier 1 throughout the KFT meta, but it appears to have broken through in K&C thanks to Aluneth and Explosive Runes. Many pro players are calling Aluneth the best card in the set despite the fact that it only sees play in aggressive-slanted Mage lists. Tempo Mage has always done a great job at pressuring its opponent's life total, but Aluneth has given it the tool it needed dig for the Fireballs and Firelands Portals is often needs to close out the game. This is to say nothing of Explosive Runes, which has managed to exceed its lofty expectations and has cemented itself as a devastating tempo play off Kirin Tor Mage. Tempo Mage already feels like a well-oiled machine, and I expect the deck remain a consistent force throughout the K&C meta.

#7 - Call to Arms

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Before K&C was released there was a debate as to the best way to build a deck around this powerful new card. Should you throw it in a deck with Prince Keleseth to Recruit buffed-up one drops? Should you put in a Murloc based deck, even though Murlocs get a lot of their value from Battlecries? Should you try to fill your deck with powerful hits like Dirty Rat and Knife Juggler at the expense of having good two drops on curve? Yes, yes, and yes. It turns out that getting three minions onto the board from one card is pretty great no matter how you choose to set it up.

Aggro Paladin is one of the three or four best decks in the current meta and still has plenty of room to improve, as the current iterations feel quite far from being finely tuned. It's clear enough that Call to Arms will be the focal point of Aggro Paladin lists going forward, and probably fair to assume that the deck will only get stronger as players discover the most powerful uses for it. Everybody expected Call to Arms to be a great card, but I don't think they expected it to be quite as omnipresent as it has been thus far

#6 - Control Warlock

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No deck picked up more cards from K&C cards than Control Warlock, a deck which deserves to be considered for early Tier 1 status. Voidlord gave the deck the trump card it needed to stall out the game against faster decks, while Rin, the First Disciple has provided it with the trump card it needed to beat other slow control decks. Both of these powerful late-game cards are held together by the massive bursts of lifegain the deck picked up from Dark Pact and Amethyst Spellstone, which simultaneously synergize with even more playable new cards from K&C: Kobold LibrarianVulgar Homunculus, and Possessed Lackey. It seems as though Cataclysm is the only card from K&C which hasn't bolstered Control Warlock in some fashion, a fact which bodes well for the archetype's long-term viability.

#5 - Spiteful Summoner 

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Very few neutral cards from K&C are seeing more widespread play than Spiteful Summoner, a swingy new minion which is already responsible for birthing several new decks. Spiteful Summoner is the big payoff for Sattelite's Big Spells Dragon Priest, which has been my personal favorite deck from the first week of K&C. Many Pirate Warriors have shed their Upgrades! to play Spiteful Summoner as a devastating curve-topper with Lesser Mithril Spellstone, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few other aggressive decks attempt similar changes. I'm less confident in the staying power of Spiteful Summoner than I am with some of the other Epic minions we'll talk about shortly, but the card has already shown more promise in the first week of K&C than most players would have expected.

#4 - Carnivorous Cube

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Dedicated Deathrattle decks across all nine classes have struggled to put up results in The Year Of The Mammoth, having lacked a powerful payoff card other than N'Zoth as a reward for building around Deathrattle synergy. Deathrattle Rangers, Warlocks, Druids, and Priests seem to have found that payoff card in Carnivorous Cube.

Carnivorous Cube generates decent value with minimal effort, netting two minions after it dies while providing a meaningful body when played on curve. It becomes devastating when combined with effects like Play DeadSpiritsinger Umbra, and Faceless Manipulator, which break the symmetry of the card's Battlecry trigger. The best Cube list appears to be "Cubelock", which is capable of using Spiritsinger Umbra and Doomguard to one turn kill. Failing that, it can summon Voidlord a million times while making powerful tempo plays with Skull of the Man'ari and Possessed Lackey. I would very surprised if Carnivorous Cube wasn't featured in a few more viable decks that crop up in the coming weeks. 

#3 - Leyline Manipulator

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Leyline Manipulator was pegged by the Hearthstone community to be one of the top new cards from K&C, but after one week it's seeing virtually no play. Elemental Mage isn't close to being a competitively viable deck, and the Questless OTK Mage lists have failed to supplant the Quest-based versions. A major part of the reason that this card has underwhelmed is that it doesn't lower the mana cost of Shifting Scroll as players predicted it would. It seems unlikely that the Questless OTK Mage deck will suddenly discover a new piece of technology which will make the deck competitively viable, which rests the hope for Leyline Manipulator on the emergence of Lesser Ruby Spellstone and Elemental Mage. I wouldn't hold my breath.

#2 - Corridor Creeper

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It's probably fair to say that no card was more poorly evaluated by the Hearthstone community than Corridor Creeper. Most players (including myself) pegged Arcane Tyrant to be the next big thing, yet Corridor Creeper is the card from K&C card which is currently seeing the most widespread play. It's way easier to reduce the cost of Corridor Creeper to two or less than players expected before getting their hands on the card, which has made it a two-of inclusion in virtually every aggro deck in the current metagame. It's even starting to replace Bonemare in certain lists, implying that it's a better card than Bonemare. It's safe to say that crafting a pair of Creepers is a wise investment of dust, as we're likely to be seeing two copies of this card in every Hunter deck from now until it K&C rotates from standard. Well, almost every Hunter deck.

#1 - No-Minions Hunter

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Hi Reddit! Remember these cards?

To My Side! was the laughingstock of r/Hearthstone when it was first spoiled, yet the No-Minions Hunter deck is currently posting higher winrates than any other Hunter archetype. To be fair, the best card in the deck is Lesser Emerald Spellstone, but there's absolutely no denying that Rhok'delar and To My Side! are powerful payoffs for what has been a viable deck in the early meta.

No-Minions Hunter is very difficult to beat when it curves Greater Emerald Spellstone into To My Side!, but I have my doubts about the deck's staying power. It performs worse at higher ranks, suggesting that skilled players can find ways to beat it. If you can avoid getting blown out by Explosive Trap and Wandering Monster then you'll enter the midgame with a board advantage against No-Minions Hunter, which typically struggles to play to the board until turn five. Regardless, No-Minions Hunter is great against classes without 3 damage board wipes for Greater Emerald Spellstone, such as Rogue and Druid, and will likely remain a powerful yet meta-reliant deck for the remainder of The Year Of The Mammoth.

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You're really early on this one. I remember when expectations for certain decks were low, then on release suddenly seemed tier 1/2, only to be considered tier 4 or at best 3 after the first 2-3 weeks.

 

Therefore, I take these picks with a large bag of salt as it may very well be we'll never see a few of these in constructed decks 3 weeks from now. Or at least constructed decks that are legend viable.

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Honestly I'm not sure that no minion hunter will stick. I think it's one of those decks that people don't know how to play against entirely, and I feel it can only get worse.

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There are definitely a lot of surprises, really interesting how it will go the next days/weeks.

For the Spells-Only-Hunter, I got a fair amount of legends and epics from my packs but neither the weapon nor To My side! was among them but I wanted to try out new hunter cards and it's doing wells so far even without those. I still think Rhok'delar isn't really strong enough to justify to play no minions, To My Side! is, I think.

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10-6 are pretty unsurprising for me, I had tempo mage with aluneth pegged as one of the best decks, the reach that weapon provides is insane, and explosive rune is just a fire ball that costs between 1-4 less that can be drawn with one of the most broken minions printed in recent memory. . . I don't know how anyone is surprised about this one.  Same with big spell mage, it seemed like a worse control mage variant to me, and control mage was pretty bad already, and they really didn't get the tools they needed.  Call to arms was another no brainer, it was my pick for strongest card in the set, a card that draws you 3 cards and plays them for 4 mana is so far above the curve it is shocking to me that this card was aloud to see print.  Control warlock was already in an okayish spot, tier 3, and was given a TON of new tools, the only real surprising thing there is some of the cards that see play, namely Rin and possessed lackey, but decks are far from refined yet so they could get phased out, especially rin in favor of stone hill defenders since you have a pretty high chance of getting her off of it and she is so bad in so many aggro match ups.  Druid is a bit suprising, I figured one of there insane decks would be preforming better then it is, but they didn't get much this expansion and I still have my doubts if recruit druid will be anything more then a meme, I just don't see it competing with big druid or jade druid.  As for 4 and 5, I really didn't think either would pan out, the cube is particularly surprising,  I thought summoner would have some potential see some experimentation and ultimately be cut for better options (which still might happen but who knows), the cube just baffles me though, on paper it seems way too slow and way too much of a pain to work around, but I guess the value is just worth it.  For 3, I am a little surprised this isn't seeing play somewhere, I mean I never had any hopes for the questless exodia mage, it really doesn't have any significant upside over quest mage, has even less of a chance to win without its combo, and its combo tends to be more easily disrupted, but a 4 mana 4/5 with significant upside to not see play is a little odd, maybe it is just too unreliable with just glyph and tome just isn't worth running as a value card, which is how I thought it would turn out, just shove this in a control mage list and run it along with a cabalist tome or two *shrug* maybe there is science to be done yet, or maybe control mage is just that bad.  Creeper always seemed strong to me, 0 mana 5/5s are preeeeetty good, but I don't think anyone could have predicted the sheer amount of play it sees and how much it has warped the meta.  As for the no minion hunter deck, I personally love it, Yogg and load was my all time favorite hunter deck.  I agree though, I think it will fade off into obscurity in the coming weeks.

Edited by VaraTreledees

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Corridor Creeper seems a lot overrated, I've seen it and I've also see people spend 4-7 mana to play it and it's horrible.

Nobody was playing Nerubian Prophet before and it's easier to discount and can be played for 3 mana on 3rd turn while this cannot.

Comparing it to Bonemare is outrageous, we're talking about a card that does nothing at all when played aside summoning a body.

It makes sense in shaman/paladin for the hero power or in hunter for Unleash the hounds and the beast tag but isn't game breaking since needs huge setup to be discounted to a reasonable amount to worth a spot in a constructed deck.

If you discount it 3 times is Chillwind Yeti with +1 atk... who plays that card in constructed? Nobody.

I guess someone saw that card in a video being played for 0 then thought <Wow 0 mana 5/5> then I go ranked at rank 9 people pays 7 mana to drop that trash because he just draw that garbage instead of a good card. And happened more than once already and I saw that card only few times.

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    • By Zadina

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      First of all, Peter Whalen and Mike Donais confirmed that there will be an update on February, a month after the World Championship. This patch will contain new events and possibly balance changes. They will take a look at the meta as it's been and as it is in the World Championship and they will decide accordingly.
      Moving on, they talked about some of the classes and how K&C cards have affected them. Starting with Warlock, Cubelock was a deck that was tested internally and it was an archetype the team was "certainly concerned about and [they] played a bunch of games with it". Carnivorous Cube was also tested internally in Recruit Hunter and in Quest Druid. As far as Possessed Lackey is concerned, there was a second version of it that read "Battlecry: If you control a Demon, Recruit a Demon", while Dark Pact was 0 mana at some point. Lastly, Rin, the First Disciple's seals used to have different effects and Azari, the Devourer was a 15/15 untargetable minion.
      The two devs talked next about the other dominating class of the current meta: Priest. Mike Donais pointed out that Highlander Priest was already doing well, so it was only given one new card: Psychic Scream. On the other hand. Big Priest has a pretty medium win rate, even though it can feel frustrating to play against. It's also a deck that will lose several cards in the upcoming rotation. At this point, the devs repeated that they are looking forward to develop and see in action new playstyles in the post-Barnes era. Finally, during the design process Twilight's Call could summon any minion, not just Deathrattles, but this was deemed too powerful.
      The next class to be discussed was Rogue. The team is happy with how balanced the Kingsbane Rogue deck turned out to be. Some internal iterations of the Rogue legendary weapon were dual-wielded daggers or a weapon that had the Battlecry: Discover a card, everything you draw is a copy of that. Mike also talked about Valeera the Hollow: he expected her to be more powerful than she already is, but maybe players will find a way to use her more in the future.
      There were a few words about Hearthstone's currently weakest class: Shaman. The devs think that the Shaman Spellstone is a powerful "sleeper" card, although maybe there's presently not a proper deck for it. They were also slightly worried about Unstable Evolution. Another "sleeper" card for them is Warrior's Drywhisker Armorer.
      An important point is that when asked about Corridor Creeper, Peter said that it's "one of the cards that raised a red flag". Lastly, they talked about King Togwaggle and the numerous iterations he had - all around swapping decks with your opponent. The penalty on the spell card isn't high enough on purpose, because they didn't want Togwaggle to be a super competitive card.
      I've tried to summarise the most important points, but you should definitely check out the entire interview on IGN. There's much more detail behind the design process of Kobolds & Catacombs, while there is also temp artwortk of cards as well as two cards that never made it into the game!
    • By Aleco

      Players can earn up to three free packs for logging in to Hearthstone during the Hearthstone World Championships.
      The folks over at Hearthpwn.com have learned from data mining of patch 10.0 that the Hearthstone World Championships will offer players three free packs as daily login rewards. The first day of the championships will give players a Journey to Un'Goro pack, the second day a Knights of the Frozen Throne pack, and the third a Kobolds & Catacombs pack. The Hearthstone home screen will also change to sparkling white theme honor the World Championships.

      Along with this week's awesome Tavern Brawl featuring World Championship winning decks, this marks the first time that Blizzard has brought Hearthstone eSports all the way to the Hearthstone client. Given the recent start of the Overwatch League and the choose your champion feature for the World Championships, it seems that Blizzard is supporting competitive gaming now more than ever.