At long last, we have them all. The final unknown cards from the Blackrock Mountain adventure were revealed by the Hearthstone community team in a special preview stream on Twitch, and truly they were saving some of the best for last. I gave my initial impressions of the cards on my stream just after they were revealed, which you can soon check out on my YouTube channel if you prefer watching videos to reading text. But if you are among those who still enjoys the lost art of reading, and you want my insight into the cards now that I’ve had a bit longer to reflect on them and collect my thoughts, read on!
The Chromaggus fight in Blackwing Lair was not one of the most compelling encounters in World of Warcraft. It basically tested whether your raid used add-ons that allowed them to see debuffs, and whether you’d looted and distributed enough Hourglass Sand from trash mobs in the zone. I can’t say I mind that the Hearthstone incarnation of the boss has nothing to do with its WoW counterpart.
The Chromaggus Hearthstone card is much more interesting than the Chromaggus raid boss. It’s in the same statistical sweet spot as Kel’Thuzad – just small enough that it doesn’t die to Big Game Hunter, and with a whole lot of health so it isn’t easy to kill with damage. Chromaggus and Kel’Thuzard ultimately serve similar roles as big durable minions that will win you the game through insurmountable value if your opponent doesn’t get rid of them quickly.
The big difference between Chromaggus and Kel’Thuzad is the way in which that value manifests. In order to use Kel’Thuzad effectively, you need to have a substantial board presence, preferably one that you can productively trade away the turn you play the big bad lich, or at least one that has taunts that can protect him. With Chromaggus, you generate advantage every time you draw a card, since the value of that card draw is doubled by the Chromaggus effect.
This means that Chromaggus is a more powerful independent value generator than Kel’Thuzad, because even if you have nothing else in play, you’ll naturally generate advantage each turn from your normal card draw. But if you’re looking to maximize the effectiveness of the doubled card draw, you’ll get the best results combining Chromaggus with other card draw effects, like Northshire Cleric, Loot Hoarder, Arcane Intellect, and the like. Even cards that just cycle like Power Word: Shield or Wrath double in value with Chromaggus on the field, and are likely to be particularly effective because they’re inexpensive and can easily be cast on the same turn as Chromaggus.
The mounting incremental advantages that Chromaggus offers each turn it remains in play is reminiscent of another late game dragon I have played quite a bit – Ysera. As to which of them is a better option for any given deck isn’t entirely clear to me just yet. Chromaggus is cheaper and has a more combat relevant stats, and can combine with other card draw effects to generate big advantages quickly. The ability to copy your cards as you draw them can throw your opponent’s strategy off since they may only play around you having two copies of a card that you end up being able to play three times in one game.
Ysera, however, generates cards that are well above the typical cost curve in power level. She’s also guaranteed to give you at least one card when you play her, while without any help Chromaggus doesn’t generate any advantage unless it survives for a turn. Ysera is also a stronger card in long fatigue battles, because she will continue to generate cards even when your entire deck is gone, while Chromaggus will not. Ysera is vulnerable to Shrinkmeister plus Cabal Shadow Priest, while Chromaggus dies to Shadow Word: Death. Decisions decisions!
Time will tell which turns out to be the better choice for a late game oriented deck – but it could be that the answer is just to play both! Seems like a fine place to start…
I mentioned in one of my last reviews that based on the fact that we’d seen both of the Mage cards and neither had any dragon synergies that I didn’t expect to see class specific dragon cards, but it seems that I was mistaken. It’s a little strange to me that only Paladins and Priests get dragon specific cards while the others only have the neutral dragon tribal cards to work with, but I can understand that there may just not have been good designs for dragon cards for every class.
Dragon Consort may very well just be the best card in the entire Blackrock Mountain adventure. As I mentioned in my discussions of Dragon’s Breath and Volcanic Drake, cost reduction mechanics are incredibly powerful in trading card games, and are especially powerful when they can be applied to cards that generate persistent board advantages like minions. Dragon Consort is basically a conditional Innervate that can only be used for late game minions but comes with a 5/5 body attached. When you look at it that way, considering how strong Innervate can be, Dragon Consort is pretty outrageous. Being able to curve Dragon Consort on turn five into Chromaggus or another big dragon on turn six is extremely powerful.
And you don’t even have to be ramping into the biggest of badass dragons in order for Consort to offer the potential for a huge tempo swing. I discussed in my review of Volcanic Drake that it seemed like it fit best into decks like Paladin or Implosion Warlock, and this is another tool that tips the scales in the favor of Paladins. If you’re playing with Volcanic Drakes, you can easily play one for free on the same turn you play Dragon Consort by just trading two minion with your opponent. Dragon Consort takes the Drake’s cost down from six to four, then the cost reduction effect from four to zero, and all of a sudden you’ve traded off the board and suddenly have eleven attack in play to nothing.
On top of all of that, Dragon Consort is, itself, a dragon. In fact, it’s the only five cost Dragon in the game other than Azure Drake, which means that every class other than Paladins that is looking to build a dragon deck is much more restricted in filling out its curve. That’s a big deal, especially since Azure Drake is only really effective in decks that can make use of spell power. I imagine that non-Paladin dragon focused decks will likely focus on a fat four drop spot in their curve with cards like Hungry Dragon and Dragonkin Sorcerer, while Paladins will have a significant edge thanks to Consort not only making their big dragons better, but also providing a solid midrange dragon body to enable cards like Blackwing Technician and Blackwing Corruptor.