Two mediocre deals do not a good card make. I don’t remember ever really wanting a 5/2 for three mana, or a 2/5 for three, either. It’s worth noting that both forms of Druid of the Flame are apparently beasts, which helps provide support for a Druid of the Fang deck. The problem is that Druid of the Fang is a 7/7 that just dies to Big Game Hunter, so it’s really not worth building a deck with marginal support cards in order to enable it.
If BGH ever gets changed or falls off the map such that Druid of the Fang is a playable card, then Druid of the Flame might start to see play. Otherwise, I really don’t expect to see this one showing up outside of the Arena or casual play.
This is the scariest card in the entire new set. One concern that I have with the way Hearthstone functions and the design philosophy that seems to guide it is that it’s very difficult to disrupt spell-based combos. We saw this with Gadgetzan Auctioneer prior to its nerf with the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, and we’re seeing it again now with the popularity and effectiveness of Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil Rogue decks. Hearthstone really doesn’t have cards that allow you to disrupt your opponent’s ability to play spells from their hand. Outside of Loatheb and Counterspell, the only way to stop your opponent from assembling a spell-based combo like Southsea Deckand/Preparation/Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil/Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil/Blade Flurry is to outright kill them. Now, I’m fine with “kill your opponent” as being a viable way to stop someone from pulling off a big combo, but when it’s the only way, it can make a large variety of deck styles difficult to play with any success.
What does this have to do with Emperor Thaurissan? Well, the Emperor is probably the most powerful spell combo enabler in the game outside of Preparation. While the cost reduction applies to all of the cards in your hand, at that point in the game, the cost reduction feels scariest to me when it enables combinations of cards that would otherwise be impossible or much delayed due to their mana cost. For instance, Emperor Thaurissian immediately enables a turn seven Force of Nature plus Savage Roar combo that would otherwise have to wait until turn nine. He can also enable a huge one turn burst of damage with something like Malygos and a fist full of burn spells.
I actually really like the idea of cards like Emperor Thaurissian that can break up the otherwise largely deterministic cost curve that exists in Hearthstone. I’ve felt for a long time that the hard cap of ten mana can hinder the variety of possible situations that can come up in the game. In Magic, for instance, the number of resources that players have varies based on how many land cards they’ve drawn and played from their deck, so you can have similar cards that may use mana to activate them have vastly different implications at different points in the game. Emperor Thaurissian allows for plays like the aforementioned early Force/Roar combo, or Malygos plus a flurry of Lightning Bolts and Crackles, that otherwise would not be possible, and that’s cool.
That said, I’m concerned that this is an effect that doesn’t really seem to have much counterplay. Yes, you can kill Emperor Thaurissian the turn after he comes out so he’ll only ever reduce the cost of your spells once, but even then often his damage will be done. If you have a fist full of spells that you’re able to reduce in cost, there isn’t much your opponent can do short of killing you to stop you from potentially being able to combo off with something like Auctioneer or Malygos or whatever else. And if your opponent can’t kill him or you right away – well, the game may end very quickly.
Then again, most of this is just speculation about theoretical issues rather than concern about anything specific. I feel like as Hearthstone expands, and more cards like Thaurissan exist, we’re going to need to see more ways to interact with your opponent’s hand rather than just what they have on the board.
While I’m not a big fan of random cards pushed for constructed power level, like Piloted Shredder or Lightning Storm, the random element of Fireguard Destroyer isn’t nearly as offensive to me. Even a 4/6 minion for four mana is a pretty good deal, and unlike something like Lightning Storm, you’re not painting yourself into a corner by playing it and rolling low in nearly the same way. Yes, sometimes you’ll win games because you roll high on Destroyer or lose games because you roll low, but it isn’t nearly as explicit as just not killing a minion you needed to kill with Storm and then dying to it.
Fireguard Destroyer is a big pickup for Shaman, who have really been lacking a quality four cost class specific minion. I briefly got excited about Dunemaul Shaman before GvG came out, but four health was just too vulnerable to be worth the Overload, especially with the stoopid ogre drawback. Fireguard Destroyer is very much worth the extra mana the following turn, and along with Lava Shock may help revitalize the once mighty Unbound Elemental. I know I will certainly be building Overload based Shaman decks once Fireguard Destroyer is available, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one.
Gang Up is a cool card, but not one that I ever really see myself playing in a competitive deck. Just like Malorne’s deathrattle ability, this effect only matters in a game in which you can reasonably expect to draw all or most of your deck. But while in Malorne’s case the only benefit is that you can draw a giant monster repeatedly, with Gang Up you can choose what kind of effect you want to replicate, which makes a big difference. The main use case I can see for Gang Up is Coldlight Oracle in a fatigue focused deck, since it’s an effect you really want more of, and the strategy inherently lends itself to drawing through your deck. That’s a strategy that also actively wants more cards in its deck so it doesn’t fatigue itself, too, so you’re really using every part of the buffalo, as it were.
Outside of that, I don’t really see Gang Up really having all that much use. Yes, you can target opposing minions, and it would certainly be amusing to draw three Tirions in a long game against a Paladin opponent, but spending a card and mana now to invest in the possibility to draw more powerful cards later on just isn’t a winning strategy in a typical game.