Top players on where Hearthstone is at and where it should go from here.
Hearthstone has changed a great deal since it was officially launched more than a year ago. In that time we’ve seen two adventures released – Curse of Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain – both of which introduced 30 new cards to the game alongside PVE content. We’ve also seen one expansion – Goblins vs Gnomes – which dramatically expanded the card set, adding more than 120 new cards.
While Hearthstone’s meta game is in a constant state of flux, the dust is definitely settling on the new cards introduced in Blackrock Mountain, so I thought it might be fun to take the pulse of the pro/streamer scene. What are the top players and personalities into right now? What’s their take on how the game has changed? How would they like it to change?
I approached some of the key people in the Hearthstone community to find out. Here are the people taking part:
A former Magic: The Gathering player and popular streamer, Reynad consistently performs on the ladder and likes to stay a step ahead of the meta. He’s known as a deck-builder, pioneering aggro Warrior, not to mention Zoolock and new variants of Hunter. He runs the eSports organisation Tempo Storm, and is based in the U.S.
To say Brian is no stranger to CCGs would be a massive understatement. He’s one of the most successful Magic: The Gathering players ever – a two-time Pro Tour Champion and Hall of Famer – and he’s a game designer by trade, having worked on the WoW TCG and now SolForge. Needless to say, he has serious Hearthstone chops too and recently won the first Challengestone tournament.
A former StarCraft II caster, anyone who watches Hearthstone tournaments would know Frodan well. He has become one of the staples of the scene, from the days of hosting ESGN’s Hearthstone Fight Night through to casting at last year’s BlizzCon, the ESL Legendary series and numerous other tournaments. He isn’t just a caster, but a strong contender on ladder and member of Tempo Storm.
Noxious is a well-known caster and personality in the Hearthstone scene. A great player in his own right, you’re more likely to find him having a blast experimenting with insane decks than grinding the ladder. He enjoys analysing the game and produces some great unique content, such as his card creation series Mekkatorque’s Workshop with TheChiv.
A player known for his aggressive face-first style, Chakki loves aggro Hunter and Zoolock, and has had multiple high level Legend finishes on the ladder. Chakki is based in the United States and is a member of Team Dignitas.
With a background in streaming StarCraft II, Trump has since become one of the most popular streamers in the Hearthstone scene. Best-known as an Arena player, Trump also plays constructed, competes in tournaments and is a member of Team SoloMid. He’s based in the United States.
Orange is based in Sweden and has a background in Magic: The Gathering. Since turning his attention to Hearthstone last year he’s emerged as one of the strongest new players in the scene, winning ESL Katowice in February and Seatstory Cup III in April. He’s also a member of Team Archon.
Xixo is a phenomenon on the Hearthstone ladder, becoming the first player ever to hold Legend #1 on the EU, NA and Asian servers simultaneously. Based in Germany, he’s also shown strong tournament form with a number of wins in smaller competitions and high placings in larger tournaments like Seatstory Cup II and III. He’s a member of Team Archon.
Kaldi is an up and coming Hearthstone player from Iceland with a background in competitive StarCraft II and chess. He is a member of Fnatic, is known for his cerebral approach to the game and has had some strong tournament performances in the last year.
Now, on to the responses…
What’s your favourite card from the Blackrock Mountain set and why?
Reynad: I suppose I like Emperor Thaurissan because it lets you do unique things and combos that weren’t possible before. It also subtly changed how some decks were built, like adding the second Force of Nature to Druid decks or playing Leeroy in combo warlock and still being able to do the full combo.
Kibler: My favorite card is Nefarian. He creates some super fun moments with cards that otherwise never really see play deciding the outcome of games. I’ve actually had the dream Sacrificial Pact vs a Jaraxxus before and it’s as awesome as you might imagine.
Frodan: Emperor Thaurissan. Let’s you bend the rules just enough to unlock a deck’s true potential. I still think we have yet to figure out better combo decks outside of Patron Warrior and Freeze Mage.
Noxious: Conceptually, my favorite card is the Dragonkin Sorcerer. I love what it tries to do as far as effectiveness goes, and it just LOOKS good enough to justify playing on its own, but Hearthstone has a bad track record when it comes to playing cards that don’t stick around or are weak to silence.
Imp Gang Boss… definitely helped put Zoo and Demon Warlock decks back into a competitive spot.
Chakki: My favorite card from BRM is Imp Gang Boss, not the flashiest card of the set, but he’s definitely helped put Zoo and Demon Warlock decks back into a competitive spot.
Trump: Grim Patron – spawns a new deck archetype.
Orange: My favorite card from Blackrock Mountain is Imp Gang Boss. It is just a really well balanced card which fills a very important role in what aggressive or midrange-style of warlock decks need and I have a weak spot for cards like that. Cards that aren’t flashy or have some huge effect but are reliable and powerful. The card I had the most fun playing is certainly Nefarian though. There is nothing better than to kill an opponent with their own cards ]:)
Xixo: Nefarian. Alot of the cards in brm are either unplayable or – sometimes combined with some rng – just broken. Nefarian is strong, has dragon synergy, is fun and doesn’t break the game.
Kaldi: I’m going to have to go with Grim Patron, even though the card is extremely strong the main thing is that the deck built around it forces players to think and practice so i think that in itself raises the skill level needed.
What was the biggest surprise of the set? (Good or bad.)
Reynad: Dragon Paladin is a lot weaker than it looked. The reason is because Grim Patron warrior is so strong and has a favorable matchup against Paladin, as well as Dragon Paladin having no burst. Every top tier deck can win games where it falls behind with burst damage, whereas once Paladin falls behind you need to Equality + Consecrate. Even if you do, your opponent is the first one to play a threat again so they retain initiative and you’re still behind.
Kibler: The power level of Grim Patron and the deck it enables wasn’t something that anyone really predicted. That card has really changed the way that decks have to be built to handle it.
Frodan: Good surprise has to be Nefarian. Underestimated because of 9 mana and 8/8 body. Turns out, he is super fun card, high impact because of drawing spells, and a specialized voice for each class! What more could you want? Bad surprise is probably Dragon Consort. Dragon Paladin is not consistent enough at the moment. The deck seems a few cards off from being good… maybe next expansion or just not enough players working hard on innovating the class.
Noxious: The biggest surprise of the set for me was the Dark Iron Skulker. I truly had hope the card would make something happen as far as Rogue decks go, but it doesn’t quite match up to my hopes. It isn’t a Consecration on a stick, sadly.
Chakki: The biggest surprise was that Grim Patron spawned an entire new deck archetype around him.
Trump: Grim Patron – actually being good.
Orange: The power level of the card Grim Patron. Nobody really expected this card to be as powerful as it is, at this point the card is a metachanger and one of the first things you have to take into consideration when building a deck. I would guess that Blizzard didn’t think this card would be as powerful as it is and I haven’t decided yet if the card is healthy for the game or not. But it sure brought something new, interesting and fun to the table which is always welcome in a meta that was dominated by face hunters prior to GvG.
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Xixo: Since Blizzard only fixed Warsong Commander with the BRM patch people couldn’t really guess the power of Grim Patron. So I’d give it to him.
Kaldi: I had really high hopes for the Hungry Dragon and was expecting him to be on the same level as the Piloted Shredder but he ended up at the same level as King Mukla sadly.
What’s the most underrated new card and why?
Reynad: Most of the dragon themed cards are underrated. I still haven’t given up hope on Dragon Consort, and cards like Volcanic Drake still have their place in classes like Hunter I think.
Kibler: I still feel like Rend is massively underrated – not necessarily because he’s a great card to be playing in the current metagame (I’ve actually mostly cut him from my own dragon decks), but because the effect really is super powerful and people write the card off as trash. It’s a hugely swingy card in the right matchup, but clearly isn’t great in an extremely aggressive format.
Frodan: Axe Flinger. This card is seriously awesome and I think people are overlooking its potency because Grim Patron warrior stole the show.
Most of the dragon themed cards are underrated.
Noxious: I’d say it’s Resurrect, but that’s mostly because the entire toolset Priest needs to make great use of it hasn’t arrived yet. It’ll come.
Chakki: I think a lot of people have already discovered the most overpowered cards, but if I had to pick I’d say Flamewaker still hasn’t reached his full potential in a deck.
Trump: Majordomo Executus – some decks are just now getting created with him as a centerpiece, remains to be seen if they have staying power.
Orange: When the set came out I think the most underrated card were Grim Patron. At this moment though? I’d say Revenge and Nefarian. I still see a lot of people use Whirlwind in their Warrior Control decks totally overlooking Revenge which is for a pretty significant one more mana gets the upside of also being able to swing an entire game in your favor. And Nefarian a lot of people just wrote off as a Big Game Hunter-target but his effect is really powerful in any sort of slower control matchup. That he is a Dragon for the very powerful Blackwing Corruptor is really huge too.
Kaldi: I think that would be Nefarian a solid dragon in his own right, I think most people assumed that he couldn’t compete with Ysera but he can I think in control warrior for example he can be an excellent choice.
Which class benefited most from Blackrock and why?
Reynad: Warrior, because Grim Patron gave the deck a Starving Buzzard + Unleash the Hounds level combo that’s flexible and proactive. It also outright beats some decks like Zoo on the spot.
Kibler: Warrior. Grim Patron opened up an entirely new style of deck that makes it much more difficult to mulligan and play optimally against the class when you’re uncertain about what they’re trying to do.
Frodan: Has to be Warrior. Gained two different builds of the class. Priest and Paladin gained half of one with Dragons and Druid has another card to fit into mill.
Noxious: Novelty-wise, probably Warrior since they got a much more consistent Combo deck than the Raging Worgen one that Neirea was bringing on and off. As far as the “general” state of the game, I’d venture to say Hunter probably benefited the most from it: it easily punishes unrefined decks, and it didn’t LOSE anything but rather it GAINED in options to fluctuate between Aggro and Midrange at will. Variety-wise, Warlock got about 3 new twists on existing decks with Malygos Warlock and the comeback of Zoo, so that’s also another contender.
Chakki: Warrior is definitely sitting atop the throne of competitive play right now, both Patron and Control are extremely good decks.
Trump: Warrior – Grim Patron.
Grim Patron opened up an entirely new style of deck that makes it much more difficult to mulligan and play optimally against the class when you’re uncertain about what they’re trying to do.
Orange: Warrior for sure because of Grim Patron. After so long of Warrior always being of the control type there’s a new build of it and a really powerful one at that. It’s arguably also the deck that gets the greatest benefits from the Blackrock Mountain powerhouse Emperor Thaurissan.
Xixo: Warrior, it has the best synergy with the 2 best cards of the set – Emperor Thaurissan and Grim Patron.
Kaldi: I think warrior gained 5x more then the class that was next up mainly on the back of Patron and how solid the Emperor is for both control and patron warrior. The more interesting thing to note is that it brought back fun cards from the beta that hadn’t seen play in forever like inner rage, battle rage and warsong commander for example.
What gameplay mechanic/card type would you like to see more of and why?
Reynad: Pirates! (Because they’re pirates)
Kibler: I want more dragons. Particularly, I’d like to see more dragons that actually work well together and facilitate the kind of late-game strategy that the tribe naturally seems to build toward. A single quality dragon with taunt or a heal attached would go a long way.
Frodan: In terms of BRM, I like developing more along the lines of Resurrect. It does involve some kind of graveyard mechanic. More interactions with cards that were played is fun and interactive IMO!
Noxious: Personally, I’d like to see more cards like Gang Up or Resurrect that don’t have a guaranteed, immediate impact. They’re cards that you can try to build decks around heavily. Emperor Thaurissan is a bit like that, in a way, but his application is much broader.
Chakki: Unpopular answer, I actually really liked the Quick Shot mechanic and think it could be really cool to make more Hunter cards based around that. It’d be kind of an all-in Miracle style deck that tries to combo off empty-hand cycler cards. For example, they could have attached the mechanic to Core Rager.
A single quality dragon with taunt or a heal attached would go a long way.
Trump: Though there are some that could see more of in future expansions, I think besides cards that cost less for each minion there will be other mechanics/types I’d prefer seeing.
Orange: I would really want to just see more Dragons and a slight change to the “hold mechanic”. First off always when I try to build a dragon deck I feel really short of actually playable dragons but the support cards (Corruptor, Technichan etc) are just so powerful. If there were more options when it came to playable dragons those decks would get a lot more interesting and that’s something I’d like to see.
When it comes to the hold mechanic I like it but I would really want to see it changed to “Hold or control a Dragon”. It makes sense flavorwise and it also makes cards like Faerie Dragon playable in these sorts of decks. As the mechanic reads now you only want to put late game Dragons into your deck because you want to hold them til really late and that way it doesn’t make sense to play cool dragons like Faerie Dragon or Twilight Whelp which in my opinion sucks.
Xixo: I think the new hunter mechanic (if your hand is empty) is very healthy :^ ).
Kaldi: I think the thing that’s most needed now are competitive dragons to make the dragon decks more viable but as for mechanic I’d like to see more competitive cards like recycle done better. Maybe with a secret or just a straight up cost reduction. The mechanic provides an interesting alternative to the “destroy a minion” type having both weaknesses and strengths (pseudo silence/card comes back in the late game).
On the next page, the strongest decks, new features the players would like to see and the cards that should be nerfed!