Last week, I posted my initial thoughts on the Blackrock Mountain cards that were revealed at the PAX East panel. Since then, we’ve gotten two more small helpings of previews to help whet our appetite for the new set. Even only having seen such a tiny slice of the card pool, I’m already very excited for the adventure to be released.
I haven’t felt particularly inspired to build new Hearthstone decks lately, and feel like the possibilities of the Goblins vs Gnomes metagame have been thoroughly explored. That’s not to say there aren’t decks out there that no one has discovered just yet, but the versions of the popular decks that do exist are so tuned and refined that it can be difficult for new brews to compete. I’m looking forward to the period of exploration, discovery, and experimentation that comes along with every new content release in a collectible game.
Anyway – without further ado – let’s take a look at the new cards.
Axe Flinger is a weird card. Its stats are quite poor for its cost, losing out on a full two points of attack compared to a neutral option like Chillwind Yeti. This means that not only does it not hit opponents as hard when it connects with their face, but it also doesn’t fight opposing minions very well. That’s a pretty big cost, so in order for this to be an attractive card, its ability has to be pretty powerful.
How good is dealing two damage to the enemy hero every time Axe Flinger takes damage? Well, that depends. If your opponent is attacking into your minion to kill it, they’ll generally need to hit it twice with anything at its cost or lower. How good would a 2/5 for four that dealt four damage to your opponent when it entered play be? Probably pretty good in the right deck, considering people play things like Arcane Golem, though obviously Axe Flinger takes a bit more work than that, and isn’t going to finish your opponent off as soon as you play it barring something like Warsong Commander.
Probably more significant is on how easy it is for you to damage your own Axe Flinger. Obviously you can attack it into your opponent’s minions, but you can only do that once per turn, and not the turn you play it – again, except with something like Warsong Commander. Warrior has lots of tools that can damage its own minions, as I touched on when I was discussing Grim Patron in my first look at Blackrock Mountain. Cards like Cruel Taskmaster and Death’s Bite already see a lot of play, and with enough self-damage triggers, things like Bouncing Blade might also make the cut. I can definitely envision a deck packed with cards like Armorsmith, Acolyte of Pain, Axe Flinger, Grim Patron, and a bunch of AOE effects. You’ll naturally be great against decks full of small minions, and your opponents will think twice before playing Goblin Blastmage against you. And with the help of cards like Sunfury Protector and Defender of Argus, you can make it difficult for them to ever get through to you without getting punished.
I don’t know if it will be a good deck, but it certainly seems like a fun deck, and I’m sure I’ll try putting it together when Blackrock Mountain comes out – right after I’m done making Dragon decks for every class, at least.
Lava Shock is a difficult card to evaluate. Upfront, you’re getting two damage for two mana, and that’s a bad deal. Arcane Shot and Holy Smite deal two damage for just one mana, and neither of them sees very much play now that Undertaker is no longer around demanding removal on the first turn. But we’re clearly not interested in Lava Shock just for its damage potential – the much more interesting aspect of the card is clearly the ability to unlock your overloaded mana crystals.
It’s important to realize exactly what this means. According to Blizzard sources, Lava Shock not only clears locks for future turns, but also clears all locks on your current turn. This means that Lava Shock can actually generate mana by casting it! If in one turn you cast Feral Spirit, Lightning Storm, and Crackle, you can then cast Lava Shock right away to clear the locks for your next turn, or if you don’t have the mana left over right away, cast it on your next turn to unlock all five of those overloaded mana crystals – and play five more mana worth of spells immediately! That’s a pretty huge swing.
Overload typically offers the tradeoff of a more powerful effect right now for a cost of fewer available mana later. When you include Lava Shock in your deck, you’re reversing that bargain – you’re getting a weak spell upfront to give you access to mana that would otherwise be denied you on future turns.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Shaman class, but the single biggest frustration for me – outside of playing against the Hunter hero power – has always been Lightning Storm. Often you find yourself in a situation in which you have to cast Lightning Storm on turn five in hopes of staying alive, but if you roll low on one or more key targets, you basically lose the game, because not only did you fail to kill them, but you won’t be able to cast Fire Elemental next turn either. In many of those cases, your best course of action is to just try to roll a spell power totem and hope for the best.
With Lava Shock, though, those desperation Lightning Storm turns are a whole lot different. You can still cast your Lightning Storm to try to clear your opponent’s board, but now you don’t need to try to roll a totem first, because you can save Lava Shock to mop up whatever survives! That Lava Shock then unlocks your two overloaded mana crystals and still leaves you wide open to play Fire Elemental the next turn no problem.
I’m definitely looking forward to experimenting with Lava Shock and bringing back old pals like Unbound Elemental, Feral Spirits, and Doomhammer, which have all fallen from grace since the release of Goblins vs Gnomes. Even Earth Elemental may find its way back into favor, though I’m sure Big Game Hunter will keep anyone from having too much fun with it. In any case, Lava Shock is exactly the kind of card I love to see in a new set – something that brings players to revisit old cards and see them from a totally different perspective. I’m certainly excited to try it out!
I love the theme of Dragon Egg, as it is clearly a callback to the egg room in Blackrock Spire which led to the Leeroy Jenkins video that was among the first things to ever really go “viral” on the internet. I’d say anyone who plays this card on the first turn has about a 32.33% (repeating, of course) chance of victory.
The obvious comparison for this card is Nerubian Egg, which costs one more mana but produces a 4/4 creature rather than a 2/1. Nerubian Egg actually has to die to trigger its effect, while Dragon Egg can potentially spawn multiple creatures if it takes damage repeatedly. That might make it seem like a good fit for the same kind of self-damage deck as Grim Patron and Axe Flinger, but unfortunately the fact that Dragon Egg makes one health minions means that it’s unlikely to work especially well in a deck full of Whirlwind effects. Similarly, a Priest deck with Wild Pyromancer and Power Word: Shield might be good at triggering Dragon Egg multiple times, but the Whelps will just get swept up with every Pyromancer trigger.
Unlike Nerubian Egg, Dragon Egg isn’t providing a great return on your mana investment when you trigger it. Nerubian Egg represents a two cost 4/4 minion, which is a major discount that makes it worth enabling with cards like Abusive Sergeant and Dark Iron Dwarf. Dragon Egg, on the other hand, is just giving you a 2/1 for one mana, which is pretty much the baseline you’d expect to pay in the first place – hardly worth trying to combo off to achieve. Yes, you can combo together an Abusive Sergeant and a Dragon Egg to kill an opposing two health minion and end up with two 2/1 minions of your own, but that’s asking a lot for what seems like a pretty marginal advantage.
That means that you probably don’t want to include Dragon Egg in your deck unless you’re really likely to be able to get multiple triggers off of it, which seems difficult except in a deck that’s going to generally be dealing AOE damage quite a bit. Unfortunately, that makes the 2/1 minions the egg spawns pretty unattractive in the first place, since they work poorly with the rest of your cards. It’s certainly a nice turn one play to curve into a turn two Cruel Taskmaster, though, so maybe it will end up having a role in that kind of deck.
I like this card because it tells a cool story, and one that put World of Warcraft on the pop culture map back in the day to the point that it was an answer to a Jeopardy question, but I don’t think it’s going to have a major impact on constructed play. I’d love to be wrong, though, since it’s a cool synergy-based card, and games are more fun when that’s what’s good rather than just raw power.
Okay, thanks for reading!
In all seriousness, this card tells us a lot about the design of Blackrock Mountain, most importantly that we’re going to see dragons at a range of sizes and casting costs. We last saw Hungry Dragon, which was an exciting card, but came with an oversized body and a drawback, so it’s not necessarily the right fit for every deck. Dragonkin Sorcerer shows us that we’re likely to see a variety of different dragons that may make playing a dragon-based deck a reality for a variety of different strategies, not just control decks aiming to play big late game legendary minions.
As for the card itself, Dragonkin Sorcerer is interesting, because it explores a space that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention so far in Hearthstone – creature buffs. Dragonkin Sorcerer gets +1/+1 every time you target it with a spell, which makes every buff you play on it that much more effective. Most classes don’t tend to play very many spells that target their own minions, in part because minions are often easy to neutralize, and investing multiple cards in one minion sets you up for card disadvantage. Similarly, cards like Sap, and the ever-present silence effects make investing in a single large minion a dangerous proposition.
That said, some buffs are safer investments than others. Power Word: Shield is the one that jumps to mind most immediately, since it immediately draws a card to replace itself. Similarly, Blessing of Wisdom guarantees a card as long as you get a single attack in, with the potential for more if you get to attack again – which a 4/6 minion has a very good chance of doing. I actually ran into a Paladin deck on the ladder the other day that was playing both Blessing of Wisdom and Blessing of Kings, mostly to build giant Zombie Chows and Shielded Minibots to fight for the board in the midgame, all the while replenishing its hand. Dragonkin Sorcerer may very well have a place in a deck like that. It certainly works well with Spare Parts, as well – will we see some kind of Dragon/Mech deck?
That said, while I am excited to build around several of the other cards I’ve talked about today, this isn’t a card that has my creative juices flowing quite as much. Even against decks that don’t have cards like Sap or Hex or Polymorph, you’re almost certain to run into silence effects like Ironbeak Owl and Spellbreaker that will ruin your day if you start piling up spells on one minion. I don’t see myself wanting to play enough buffs for my own minions to warrant including Dragonkin Sorcerer over something like Chillwind Yeti that just has better base stats – except, of course, if what I’m interested in is the Dragon creature type.
And that is certainly something that I am interested in.
More dragons please!