This week’s VS report is a little different. Instead of looking at the current meta (which they say hasn’t changed much or at all), they focus on the relative strength of their Classic/Basic sets in conjunction with their Year of the Raven sets.
The experience of going over the Year of the Raven sets was eye opening. There are so many synergies that we’ve almost forgotten about because the power level of Year of the Mammoth sets was so high. This becomes an intriguing subject: When every class looks weak, which class is strong? We believe that the rotation occurring in April will be the most impactful one we’ve ever seen, possibly eclipsing the first one experienced in Whispers of the Old Gods.
Based on the cards we know of, Rogue is easily the strongest class in April and it’s not even close. Captain Hooktusk is a recruit mechanic card without the labeling of recruit. Her entire pirate package is going nowhere in April either. And then, there’s Myra’s Unstable Element: a card that’s just waiting to break any Rogue deck if it just gets the chance. Alongside Raiding Party, another extremely powerful draw engine complemented by Preparation, Rogue has the foundation to excel if it receives minions at even a moderate power.
Warrior is in as good a spot. YotM sets were relatively poor Warrior cards and many of the tools other classes received during that year were hard counters to Warrior late game. YotR released low power sets to other classes, but comparatively good Warrior sets. Rush Warrior doesn’t stand to lose too much power from rotation, so it has the potential to become one of the more powerful early game decks. Dragon Warrior could indeed bring forth the Warrior’s Year of the Dragon.
What Paladin does have going for it is that its Year of the Mammoth sets are quite weak. Its standout losses are Sunkeeper Tarim and Call to Arms. Losing Genn and Baku hurts a lot, but opens things up for Paladin to utilize forgotten synergies.
Dragon Paladin is an archetype that has been close for a while now. If we get a couple of strong dragons, we can see this deck finally getting off the ground. With Psychic Scream gone, Mech Paladin may finally flourish. Mechano-Egg and Kangor’s Endless Army are deliciously intriguing build-around cards. Heal Paladin could finally get a turn in the spotlight with RR having strong support And finally, let’s not forget that Shirvallah the Tiger, Baleful Banker and Holy Wrath are still a powerful late game combo waiting for a strong enough shell to pick it up.
Shaman didn’t really have strong Year of the Mammoth sets. Elemental Shaman in Un’Goro was mediocre. Freeze Shaman was a joke and Shaman’s K&C was underwhelming. Year of the Raven was better. Hagatha is one of the more powerful cards and it should become a fantastic late game win condition in April. Shudderwock may have seen its OTK combo removed, but it’s still a terrific late game win condition that can be very powerful in the right shell. Both are very likely to produce some success once other late game cards rotate away. Aggressive Shaman decks focusing on Overload have great potential in the Year of the Dragon. Finally, Shaman also has combo potential. Eureka, Electra Stormsurge, Zentimo, Spirit of the Frog and Krag’wa the Frog are intriguing cards that can be used both as value engines and combo enablers. With most classes taking a big step back in power level, having Shaman standing still means it’s already made a big gain.
April will be when Ultimate Infestation and Spreading Plague finally go, alongside an endless list of cards that could suggest that Druid has nothing left to play with in April. While it’s true that Druid loses a lot, in the context of the new meta in April, Druid’s Year of the Raven sets were quite decent compared to other classes.
The Treat variant of Token Druid may have been an inferior build, but it looked borderline competitive before fading away. We think there’s a good chance that we will see Treant Druid return in April. What is also often forgotten is that Flobbidinous Floop, Juicy Psychmelon, and Dreampetal Florist were only introduced in Boomsday. While we could easily be fixated on their current utilizations, they are extremely strong enablers for combo decks in general. Finally, Rastakhan’s Rumble supported Big Beast Druid decks and there is a lot of potential for this archetype considering that next year it’s going to be one of the only ways to cheat out big minions, through Stampeding Roar and Witching Hour. Oondasta is also an incredibly powerful swing card that Druid looks best positioned to abuse.
We won’t beat around the bush. Warlock’s K&C set might be remembered as, pound for pound, the most absurdly over-tuned class set in the history of Hearthstone. Out of ten class cards, ten of them became core in staple meta archetypes over the next year. Two of them were nerfed, continued to be played after the nerfs and persisted in a Tier 1 deck. You could argue that two more could have been nerfed and no one would have complained. When you add Bloodreaver Gul’dan and Defile from KFT as well as Genn Greymane, it’s almost unnecessary to say: The Warlock class is about to drastically change its identity.
Year of the Raven has provided Warlock with admittedly weaker, but promising synergies that simply did not have a chance to compete. Zoo Warlock may look to run Spirit of the Bat and Void Analyst to complement a Soul Infusion / Doubling Imp package. A heavier build running Omega Agent and Hir’eek, the Bat could also become a relevant. Discard Warlock has received some very interesting support in Rastakhan’s Rumble. The value engines of High Priestess Jeklik and Soulwarden look stronger once Year of the Mammoth value engines are gone. Shriek and Reckless Diretroll are also specifically more powerful once they step out of the shadows of Defile, Stonehill Defender and Tar Creeper.
Hunter is going to be hit very hard by rotation. Cube Hunter will be completely gone. The remaining deathrattle synergy cards available in Hunter are left in the Mech tribe introduced in Boomsday. However, we’re quite skeptical of its chances for success without further significant support. Midrange Hunter is expected to be severely weakened, with the deck losing its only viable early game curve through Dire Mole and Crackling Razormaw. It is also losing Deathstalker Rexxar. This may force Hunter decks to run heavier builds carrying more threats while worrying about card advantage. For example, a card such as Halazzi, the Lynx will likely be considered more seriously. Master’s Call is powerful enough to keep a beast synergy deck alive. But, it will be effective only if Hunter gets some early game beasts. It’s got none of them now, and a Midrange deck must do something in the first two turns. If Hunter doesn’t receive a meaningful early game, it’s in trouble. Another Hunter archetype which might pop up is a slower spell-centric Hunter. Zul’jin remains one of the most powerful cards available for the class, but this archetype would need tons of help from the upcoming expansion. Watch out for minion-generating spells, as they’re crucial in order to empower Zul’jin.
Mage is about to experience a serious identity crisis. The class’ Year of the Mammoth sets have been paramount to any success it has seen this year. Meanwhile, its Year of the Raven sets only successfully support Odd Mage. Jan’alai the Dragonhawk, Daring Fire-Eater and Pyromaniac are very powerful cards left in limbo with the departure of Baku. Mage’s Year of the Raven sets are particularly weak and don’t carry enough standalone power or synergies. Many of these cards, such as any Elemental synergy card, are complementary pieces for sets from the previous year, and will likely become redundant. The “strongest” Mage cards in Year of the Raven mostly support an aggressive spell deck. Cinderstorm, Shooting Star, Celestial Emissary, Stargazer Luna, Cosmic Anomaly, Vex Crow and Unexpected Results are barely okay, but they’re not outstanding building blocks. Unless Mage gets a quality set in the next expansion, the most likely outcome for Jaina is a straight dive into the dumpster. If Mage didn’t have its strong classic set, it would be completely hopeless.
While nearly every class can claim to be gutted after rotation, Priest is a stand out. Nothing will be left of the three primary archetypes for Priest that are currently seeing play. Psychic Scream, Shadow Vision, Shadowreaper Anduin, Duskbreaker, Radiant Elemental and Lyra the Sunshard are all key cards that are retiring. Priest’s classic set is known for being one of the weakest, and the class has historically only been powerful towards the second half of a Hearthstone year. Only when enough powerful cards have been printed to compensate for Priest’s permanently weak starting point, does Anduin stand a chance. Judging by the Year of the Raven sets, Priest is not in a good spot at all. The clock is ticking. If you are a big Priest fan, enjoy it while you can. There’s a danger that this is the last month the class will be competitive for a long time.