The Grand Tournament Card Review – Mage and Paladin

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10ColdarraDrake

I was first excited when I saw Coldarra Drake, since it’s a new Mage specific dragon, and the deck I’ve been playing the most recently has been Dragon Mage. Unfortunately, Coldarra Drake doesn’t really fit into that deck, since it doesn’t really do anything until you invest a lot of mana into it. The Dragon tag here is kind of a trap, since I’m sure people will try to put it into dragon-based decks, but in reality Coldarra Drake isn’t much better than the already available Drakonid Crusher most of the time, since most of what you’re getting is a 6/6 body for six mana.

Where Coldarra Drake may shine is in some kind of deck built around leveraging the hero power, whether through Inspire or hero power-modifying abilities like Fallen Hero. There are quite a few powerful Inspire cards that could be pretty outrageous if you’re able to activate them multiple times, which Coldarra Drake can facilitate. That said, in order to do so, you need to have both Coldarra Drake and your other Inspire enabler survive to a turn when you have enough mana to really abuse the synergy, which seems like a tall order. My guess is that Coldarra Drake ends up having at best a small impact on ranked play, while being something of a beast in Arena.
14SpellSlinger

This a strange card. It provides a theoretically symmetrical effect of giving both you and your opponent a spell, but the range of possible spells is so broad that one of you could end up with a game winning Flamestrike or Lay on Hands while the other finds themselves with Totemic Might. To that end, Spellslinger is a great card if you’re looking to play a deck themed around random effects. If your goal is to be competitive, however, it’s a harder sell.

Mages do have quite a few spell-based synergies, like Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Flamewaker, so you can theoretically leverage whatever spell you happen to get more effectively than your opponent. The 3/4 body is better than most three drops Mages have available, though to be fair no one tends to play Spider Tank outside Mech themed decks, so it’s nothing particularly exciting.

My guess is that Spellslinger won’t see a lot of tournament play, if only because many competitive players tend to be relatively risk averse. The idea of playing a card that could give your opponent an advantage – even if it’s equally likely to do the same for yourself, or even more likely due to synergies – really turns off a lot of players. If it does find a home, it will likely be in some kind of heavy spell synergy tempo-Mage deck that’s interested in both the solid body and the shot at an extra Flamewaker trigger.
13FlameLance

This is a difficult spell to really justify including in a constructed deck. Both Polymorph and Fireball cost less mana and have greater flexibility, whether in removing Deathrattle minions or finishing off your opponents. If you really specifically want a way to kill especially big minions, like Giants, you have a much better option in Big Game Hunter as well. My guess is this is a card that doesn’t see much play outside of arena, where it will really punish Warlocks for playing Wrathguard.
12FallenHero

A 3/2 for two mana is a decent rate to begin with, if you’re in the market for an aggressive minion. It trades down with one drops, but the added damage on your Hero power in the mid game just might be able to make up for that. That said, there’s a lot of competition at the two drop slot in Mage, particularly due to the all-powerful Mad Scientist. Control decks will generally want something sturdier, while aggressive Mage decks these days are generally either Mech or spell focused, and it’s hard to justify playing something that offers marginal mid game utility over the tempo of cards like Mechwarper or Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This could certainly be a fixture of the same Inspire deck as Coldara Drake – the two obviously work well together – but it’s going to have a hard time finding a home in existing Mage decks. 11EffigyMaybe the fact that I’ve spent the past few weeks playing almost nothing but Dragon Mage has me somewhat biased, but I think Effigy is in contention for the single most powerful card in the entire expansion. It hasn’t gotten a ton of attention that I’ve seen so far, I think in part because its effect isn’t really something the average Mage deck that exists today is interested in. But Effigy offers something to more controlling Mage decks that aggressive oriented decks have long had in Mirror Entity – a secret that provides tempo advantage.

One of the biggest issues with more controlling Mage decks right now is being constrained by mana. Cards like Arcane Intellect and Duplicate feed them a steady stream of powerful cards, but they can only do so much in a given turn. Effigy allows them to generate a mana advantage on board when one of their bigger minions gets destroyed that can help turn the pace of the game around. Currently, Duplicate is great at letting you grind your opponent out with value, but you don’t always have time to leverage that value. With Effigy, you get board presence right away that you can use to help turn the corner to your end game.

Coincidentally, Effigy and Duplicate both want you to play the same way – leaving large, high value minions in play on your opponent’s turn, and avoiding giving your opponent opportunities to kill smaller minions. If you have a secret up and a Sludge Belcher in play, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Effigy or Duplicate – you’re happy to have it die on your opponent’s turn. There may be some issues with getting relatively weak creatures from Effigy that prevent you from wanting to commit Duplicates until they die, but overall, the two cards work extremely well together, and are likely to be a common pair in control Mage decks after the expansion.

I know I’ll be playing both of them quite a bit! ArcaneBlast

Arcane Blast feels a lot like Shield Slam to me. It’s a one costs interactive spell that can kill big creatures late in the game, which can generate a huge tempo advantage. Granted, it’s a lot easier to build up big armor values than a lot of Spell Damage, at least right now, but Arcane Blast also has the advantage that it can be used as early as your first turn to remove an opposing minion.

One mana spells are always worth giving a second look. Execute and Shield Slam are the real source of power in Control Warrior, because their cheap interaction is what lets that deck play big spells in the same turn as a big Legendary minion. I’m not sure the supporting cast exists for Arcane Blast to be nearly efficient enough to consistently remove big threats at the moment, but it’s definitely a card to keep your eye on as more ways for Mages to gain spell damage arise. If nothing else, it’s the first reliable one costs removal spell in Mage period, so it is a possible tool for the class to use against aggressive decks, even if it isn’t a big high-damaging blast.
Rhonin

Rhonin is a card that feels like it may want to go into the same kind of spell-focused deck as Spellslinger. It offers a body that isn’t all that impressive upfront, but comes with some spell-synergy value on the back end once he dies. Three copies of Arcane Missiles obviously works well with something like Flamewaker or Malygos, so I expect players to explore Rhonin alongside those cards.

That said, I’d be surprised if this card ultimately ended up seeing that much play. Eight is a lot of mana, especially for a card that does nothing the turn it hits the field. Is this really more attractive than Ragnaros or Dr Boom? for a tempo Mage deck? I can buy that there might be some kind of deck with Malygos or Archmage Antonidas where this is a powerful effect, but you can really only afford to play so many big minions in a deck, and playing one that is only really powerful when you draw the other is often going to lead you to having a bad time. That said, it does seem difficult to lose a game where you get three Fireballs off of Antonidas from the three Arcane Missiles off of Rhonin, so maybe I’m underestimating it somewhat.
DalaranAspirant

If you’re really in the market for Spell Damage, whether due to Arcane Blast, a fist full of Arcane Missiles from Rhonin, or whatever else – I honestly feel like you can probably do better than Dalaran Aspirant. If you can manage to keep it in play and use your hero power multiple times over several turns, then yeah, this can be a powerful effect. But that’s a big investment, and you still need to pay mana to play spells to take advantage of the Spell Damage for it to really pay off.

One place I can see Dalaran Aspirant possibly fitting is alongside the new Master of Ceremonies that gets a huge battle cry bonus from having a spell power minion. They fit perfectly on curve with one another – four to play Aspirant, then two mana to ping and three more to play the 6/4 Master. That stat payoff can certainly help make up for the tempo loss from Aspirant, but you still really need to be leveraging the Spell Damage heavily in order to make the reliance on synergy worthwhile. Perhaps with Arcane Blast, or even Arcane Explosion for big cheap AOEs?

Hmm – maybe there really is a deck there…
PolymorphBoar

 

This may be my favorite card in the set because it’s literally Summon Huffer. I love that the card’s flavor text is an ode to Animal Companion – Blizzard does really well with infusing their games with a nice dose of humor, and the self-aware and self-referential kind is particularly amusing to me.

Outside of being hilarious, I think this card may actually be good. The ability to turn a small minion into a 4/2 charge after it has already attacked can generate a nice burst of damage akin to an Arcane Golem for finishing opponents off. It’s also able to double as an actual Polymorph in a pinch, letting you break through something like a Tirion or Sludge Belcher to finish your opponent off. Those are two powerful effects that an aggressive deck can certainly find uses for, and that kind of flexibility is valuable even if neither of them is necessarily the most efficient version available. 15EadricthePure

Turning all of your opponent’s minions into dude-killers is a very powerful effect in any midrange or control-oriented metagame. With Equality and Consecration, Paladins already have excellent tools for winning games when boards get clogged, Eadric offers a way to help diminish your opponent’s team without hamstringing your own.

If midrange and control Paladin decks find their way back into the metagame, I expect Eadric to find a home in them. That said, everything about the class – from hero power to general play style – suffers from the dominance of Patron Warrior, and there don’t seem to be any nerfs coming on that front. If things shape up differently, maybe Eadric can come out and play. If not, he’s going to stay on the bench with the rest of his Paladin buddies.
17WarhorseTrainer

This is a nice mini-quartermaster that helps make Muster more of a threat to trade with opposing minions early in the game. It’s kind of awkward in that it’s a card that shares a spot on the curve with Muster, so it’s not a natural follow-up play, and it’s also rarely going to be a strong play on-curve unless you’ve had a weak draw and missed your two drop. Generally cards that make their way into strong constructed decks tend to fit more naturally into the natural flow of the class’s curve. Warhorse Trainer helps shore up bad draws, but it’s marginal at best in good ones. I wouldn’t expect it to make a major impact.
16TuskarrJouster

Tuskarr Jouster is super sweet. I’ve always hated playing a bunch of inefficient healing cards like Antique Healbot in my Paladin decks simply because I otherwise didn’t stand a chance against Face Hunter. Tuskarr Jouster is like an Antique Healbot on steroids against decks with ultra-low curves like Face Hunter, and still a totally serviceable 5/5 body for five mana in other matches. Sure, you may not be likely to get the battlecry effect against Handlock, but that’s not what it’s there for, is it?

Definitely a card that will see play in Midrange and Control Paladin – assuming, of course, that those are decks that get to come out and play again.
16ArgentLance

Paladins are already glutted on weapons between Muster for Battle and Truesilver Champion. I want to fit Coghammer into my decks all the time, but end up cutting it more often than not thanks to awkward draws with too many weapons. Argent Lance doesn’t seem good enough to shift that dynamic. Maybe this could end up replacing early drops in a deck that wants to really heavily leverage the joust mechanic and thus avoid cheap minions, but that same deck would likely suffer even more from weapon flood – and is anyone really going to skip playing Shielded Minibot for this card? EntertheColloseum Another sweet card for midrange and control Paladin decks, though it does seem like Paladins have something of an embarassment of riches when it comes to board sweeper effects. This card is especially cool because you get to dictate the terms of it on your own turn. You can easily trade in your entire board except for your biggest minion to kill your opponent’s biggest creature, and then finish that off with your remaining fatty.

That said, six is a lot of mana for a card that can’t help if you’re behind to a big minion, and Paladin already has powerful board clears that are more versatile in the form of Equality and Consecration. Maybe this could be a sweet card for something like Dragon Paladin to help take control of the game against other midrange or control decks. The world where this card is powerful is one in which midrange board stalls are common, and while that doesn’t seem to be the world we live in, maybe it will be at some point after TGT release. This card is worth keeping an eye on.
CompetitiveSpirit

As a game designer, I kind of hate this card, because it highlights the templating issue with secrets. There’s an unwritten rule that secrets only activate on your opponent’s turn, but Competitive Spirit only ever triggers on your turn. I understand the desire for brevity in card text, but it’s dangerous ground to cut text off cards because of certain game rules and then violate those game rules on other cards.

Outside of that, this is kind of an interesting card. On the one hand, it seems like it wants to go into the same deck as Avenge, since your opponents will have a hard time judging which one they should play around at any given time. The big problem with Competitive Spirit seems to be the fact that it’s often going to work poorly with Mad Scientist, though, since you can easily end up with your opponent killing your Mad Scientist on their turn and leaving you with just a single minion in play to buff with Competitive Spirit.

To mitigate this, you clearly want cards that generate multiple minions to make the most of this card, like Haunted Creeper, Echoing Ooze, or Muster for Battle. Would this deck be better than the aggro Paladin decks floating around right now? Probably not, but hey, it’s worth a shot.
SealofChampions

It’s Hand of Protection stapled to Blessing of Might, with a combination that plays a whole lot like Blessing of Kings! This is a weird card to me, since it does feel likely to play very similarly to existing cards, though it does have somewhat different applications. Seal of Champions is better at letting a small minion attack up into a big minion than Blessing of Kings, since the Divine Shield is guaranteed to mitigate the hit, no matter how big. Blessing of Kings is better against several smaller minions for exactly the opposite reason – it can absorb several small hits, while a small minion with Seal would have its Divine Shield broken and then die right away. This could make Seal a possible replacement for Blessing of Kings in a more midrange/control focused metagame, or even just in order to bring the curve of a deck down a bit – Paladin decks do tend to have a lot of four mana cards.

MysteriousChallenger

This card is pretty cool, because it encourages players to build decks in an unusual way. Normally, you might want to play just a couple of secrets that best fit your deck, in order to consistently get them with Mad Scientist. But because Mysterious Challenger puts one of each secret from your deck into play, you may want to play with a somewhat broader range of secrets than usual.

The biggest problem with this card is the simple fact that Paladin secrets just aren’t that good. Even with the promise of getting them all into play for free, you still run the risk of actually drawing them, which can lead to weak and inconsistent draws. Every secret you do draw also makes the Challenger less powerful when he ultimately appears – even moreso than Mad Scientist much of the time, since you’re likely to be playing fewer copies of each secret.

My guess is that the biggest impact this card is going to have on tournament play is when a Tempo Mage player gets one with Unstable Portal and totally blows someone out on the third turn by setting up Mirror Entity and Counterspell along with a 6/6 minion. Now *that’s* an eSportal!
MurlockKnightOkay, this guy is adorable. And maybe even reasonably good. A 3/4 for 4 is obviously weak on the stat side, but getting an extra minion every time you use your hero power is a pretty powerful effect. I’m skeptical that Murloc Knight could hold its own in a world full of Death’s Bites and Piloted Shredders, but in the right metagame, and with the right taunts keeping him protected from your opponent’s minions, this guy could lead his people to glorious victory over the land-dwellers. Murglglglglglgl!

Okay, maybe not *really*, since there are way more powerful Inspire cards for attrition matchups out there – but a Murloc can dream, can’t he?

 

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