People love predicting things. When we make predictions, and we’re right, we feel great. We pat ourselves on the back for how smart we are. And when we’re wrong – well, we tend to just try to forget about those, or downplay them. How can anyone be expected to predict the future, right? But we can only truly learn from our mistakes, not our victories. Now that Goblins vs Gnomes has been out for a full month, I want to take a look back at the big winners and losers of the set. There were a lot of predictions made about what the top cards would be, and now that the dust has at least started to settle, we can see with better clarity which of those predictions were accurate. What were the most overrated – and the most underrated – cards in Goblins vs Gnomes? What are the take-aways from these mistaken evaluations that can let us do better in the future?
Iron Juggernaut was a card that was heralded by many as “broken” and was among the top picks of even some pro players and streamers as a standout card from the set. I had a much less positive impression of the card, myself, so it’s no surprise to me that the Juggernaut has failed to make an impression so far. Warrior is still a major player in high level constructed play, but Iron Juggernaut is nowhere to be seen, since it doesn’t mesh well with the controlling style that the decks tend to take.
While randomly blowing your opponent up can be nice, you’re generally better off playing consistently powerful cards that build toward your powerful end game Legendaries, like Alexstraza, Ragnaros, and Grommash. And Goblins vs Gnomes introduced a different six drop that does exactly that, even if it isn’t nearly as flashy.
Moral of the Story: Iron Juggernaut is a classic case of fanciness over consistency. People see the idea of the big exciting bomb explosion and miss the fact that in many games, this is just worse than a Boulderfist Ogre because the bomb never goes off, or it goes off in a game that you would have easily won anyway.
Shieldmaiden was an early reveal that didn’t get a lot of fanfare, but she’s certainly made a big impact. Shieldmaiden gives Warrior decks a way to proactively impact the board state while preserving their effective health, which has proven to be very valuable in the aggro filled metagame. While not as flashy as Legendary six drops like Cairne, The Black Knight, or the aforementioned Iron Juggernaut, this little gnome consistently does her job every game regardless of the board state and isn’t vulnerable to silence effects.
While Shieldmaiden may look like a glorified Priestess of Elune, giving armor rather than restoring health is a big upgrade because of things like Shield Slam and Alexstrasza, as is the fourth point of health in a world of Death’s Bites and Yetis. Shieldmaiden gives Warrior a strong proactive play in the mid-game that also helps it survive into the late game where it shines.
Moral of the Story: Precisely the opposite of Iron Juggernaut – don’t overlook simple cards. Shieldmaiden is the perfect combination of body and effect for a deck that wants draw out the game, which just so happens to describe Control Warrior – the premiere deck of the class.
This is another example of fanciness getting the better of people. It’s a creature that can never die forever because you keep shuffling it back into your deck! When you put it that way, Malorne *sounds* awesome, but the problem is that in practice that’s not really how the games ever play out with Druid. As a class with limited removal and a very midrange hero power, Druids rarely play games that go to fatigue, and certainly aren’t generally looking to do so.
Malorne is a lot like Iron Juggernaut, in that it sounds exciting when you think of what it *can* do, but games rarely play out in a way that make its ability matter. As a seven cost minion, it really needs to do more upfront in its first life to justify the cost. You can’t spend seven mana for a minion that has no immediately impact on the game the turn you play it, especially if just dies to Big Game Hunter.
Moral of the Story: Same as Iron Juggernaut – fanciness over function. Think about how games actually play out for a class and how cards fit into them. If this were a Priest or Warrior card, things might be a bit different, since those are classes that often end up duking it out in fatigue and might have a better use for an “immortal” minion.
It might be a little unfair to call Quartermaster underrated, because it’s not a card that anyone really expressed any negativity about in the early reviews. That said, it’s not a card that got a lot of attention, no doubt in part due to the fact that it was revealed as part of the last big batch right before the set’s release. People were too busy fantasizing about combo’ing Muster for Battle with Sword of Justice to notice the real powerhouse pairing with Quartermaster. While Quartermaster is slower, it provides a much bigger boost, and impacts minions that can attack right away, which is absolutely huge. Additionally, the fact that Quartermaster buffs the Recruits from your hero power as well makes the previously innocuous 1/1s into huge potential threats. Even the threat of it forces your opponents to play differently against you, which is the sign of a very powerful card.
Moral of the Story: Cards that combo with hero powers deserve extra attention, because they’re much easier to enable than cards that combo with other cards.
This one is toward the bottom of the Overrated list because it has actually been showing up in some reasonably successful decks. However, it’s still here because the overwhelming reaction to it being spoiled was “OMG WTF BLIZZ PLS NERF HUNTER SO OP ALREADY”. The collective mania was surrounding the idea that Feign Death would make the already powerful deathrattle Hunter decks even stronger and that it was clearly overpowered.
I contested this idea in my review, suggesting that including Feign Death incurred a high cost. After all, Hunter is a class that is based more on retaining tempo and dealing damage than on extracting long term value from its cards. We have seen some somewhat slower Hunter builds featuring Feign Death alongside Sylvanas and Dr Boom, but those are much less popular than the more straightforward aggressive Undertaker builds.
Moral of the Story: Remember that decks have 30 cards. In order to add new cards to any deck, you have to take cards out, which impacts how the deck operates. While a card like Feign Death can be powerful in Deathrattle Hunter, it doesn’t contribute to the core aggressive strategy of the deck as much as the alternatives.
Antique Healbot was a card that got a little bit of attention during spoiler season, but it has had a massive impact on the constructed format. Previously, only a few classes had access to efficient healing effects, but the introduction of Healbot means that anyone who is looking for a way to claw their way back out of burn range has that option. Eight is a huge chunk of health, and the fact that it’s attached to a 3/3 body means that you can often even get trade value out of the deal as well.
The most significant impact that Healbot has had so far is probably in Handlock, where it has pretty much singlehandedly made the Hunter matchup winnable. On top of that, it’s helped facilitate the rise of several other controlling decks, like Echo and Fatigue Mage and Mill Druid. I’ve actually even seen Healbot showing up in Priest and Paladin lists, since the value of the body plus the sheer amount of healing it provides compares favorably to what’s available to the traditional healing classes. I actually talked not long ago about how I felt the lack of effective healing cards was a big part of what made control decks outside of Paladin and Priest largely unplayable, and Healbot has totally changed that.
Moral of the Story: Cards that provide effects to classes that previously didn’t have access to them can fundamentally alter the way those classes can be played, and should not be underestimated.
I’m sure some people are going to disagree with me about this one even now, but Shrinkmeister is a card that really hasn’t lived up to the hype. When it was first revealed, I was one of the people who was really high on the card because of its potential applications with Shadow Word: Pain, Shadow Madness, and Cabal Shadow Priest, along with its ability to swing combats in your favor.
Since then, though, I have really soured on the card, at least in Control Priest. It’s simply too situational, requiring that you draw the right cards to combo with when your opponent has a board against which the combo is effective. Priest already struggles with having a lot of conditional reactive cards, and can’t really afford to play more of them. I still think Shrinkmeister may find a place in more proactive Priest builds, likely alongside Undertaker, but haven’t found it effective in control.
Moral of the Story: Be careful of overvaluing the combo potential of cards that aren’t strong on their own.
Imp-losion is a card that flew under everyone’s radar during spoiler season, and for good reason. It’s an unreliable effect, and most competitive players generally shy away from cards with random elements. It didn’t look like a particularly high impact spell for its cost, either, since neither dealing a few points of damage or putting a few 1/1 Imps into play are something you’d really to spend four mana on.
The two combined, however, turned out to be the perfect recipe for the board-advantage focused Warlock Zoo deck. The spell combines especially well with Knife Juggler, creating the potential for swing turns similar to Unleash the Hounds. This underappreciated spell catapulted Zoo back into the spotlight thanks to Xixo, who piloted his Implosion version of the deck to the #1 Legend rank on all three servers simultaneously, a few that I’m not sure has been accomplished by anyone else.
Moral of the Story: Pay close attention to cards that generate both value and immediate board impact, and don’t dismiss random effects out of hand.
Talk about a card that was overblown with hype. Reynad picked Unstable Portal as his #1 card in the set prior to the release, claiming that casting it meant that you won the game a huge percentage of the time. When I was first building MechMage on stream in the first few days after the GvG release, my chat constantly berated me for not playing with Unstable Portal, since the general opinion of the community at the time was that the card was broken, in large part due to Reynad’s claims. I played with it a bit, and despite the card overperf0rming and getting high impact Legendaries an inordinate percentage of the time, ultimately chose to cut it from my deck because it didn’t mesh with my central theme and couldn’t reliably advance my game plan.
Now, a month out from the set release, Unstable Portal is showing up in virtually no decks for exactly that reason. While it can certainly produce the occasional flashy and overwhelming victory, it’s unreliable, and few decks would rather roll the dice on a good portal result than play something consistently effective. Perhaps most importantly, most strong decks are built on synergies, and Unstable Portal doesn’t consistently do anything to support a deck’s central plan.
Moral of the Story: Don’t get blinded by best case scenarios, and don’t underestimate the importance of consistency or synergy.
Since the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, Dr Boom has become the most ubiquitous Legendary in the game. And yet he flew under the radar of most players during spoiler season, including myself. The biggest reason for this, I think, was his similarity to a card that many players knew to be bad – War Golem. Considering War Golem is a card that saw absolutely no play, another 7/7 for seven mana wasn’t turning any heads, and a couple of 1/1 minions coming along with him didn’t seem like enough to make a big difference.
Turns out the Boom Bots *do* make a big difference. They make Dr Boom into something of an army in a can, since there aren’t many ways to remove both his 7/7 body and the accompanying Boom Bots with a single card. Even if your opponent has a Big Game Hunter – a card whose stock has risen a great deal thanks to the popularity of Dr Boom – they still have the Bots to deal with, so it’s not nearly as big a swing as BGH usually creates.
Moral of the Story: Avoid attaching too much to card quality anchors. “War Golem is bad so Dr Doom must also be bad because it looks so much like Dr Boom” is an easy conclusion to draw if you don’t consider the very significant differences between the two.
What do you think? What were the cards in Goblins vs Gnomes that you thought would shine but fell flat on their faces? What hidden gems have come out of the set?