Misunderstood Cards in Karazhan

BY Andrew Miesner / September 8, 2016

By Simon “Sottle” Welch

As a community, we are awful at evaluating cards. It’s just a fact. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but the community at large is always way off base in terms of which new cards are going to be powerful and which are not. The Pro Player community does a better job on average, but things still slip under the radar or get overhyped. The expansion history is littered with Dr. Booms and Darkshire Councilmen that were not picked out as strong cards in the plethora of Youtube card reviews, but ended up being absolute powerhouses. Seriously, go back to your favourite streamers review of GvG or Whispers, the hit rate is usually pretty dang low. We suck, we must accept this and move on.

With all this in mind, when the overwhelming reaction to One Night in Karazhan’s card reveals was “meh”, I wasn’t too worried. I’m not going to say I knew that X card and Y card were going to be strong, but the ideas were there, the new mechanics were there, and the synergy possibilities were there. Some things that we didn’t expect were just going to work. While there was a lot of hype over Menagerie Warden, which was going to immediately break the game and make Beast Druid the best deck the world has ever seen (right up until it…didn’t), there were a lot of cards that have had a great showing so far that weren’t predicted to be game changers. I’m as bad as anyone else and am not for a second saying that I called all the below correctly, but here are the biggest misses in community perception:

Ironforge Portal

I can definitely understand this one. This card just shouldn’t be good. We’ve learned from cards like Master of Evolution and Piloted Sky Golem in the past that 4-drops can be really sketchy when it comes to a random outcome. The pure math says that it’s around 3.2/4.2 as a mean result, which is not exactly earth-shattering, but the really scary part is the low-roll potential. Faceless Shambler, Eerie Statue, Keeper of the Grove – there are a lot of really terrible outcomes. What was missed though is that, prior to Whispers of the Old Gods and Standard mode, Control Warriors wanted to play in a way that omitted all win-conditions from their own deck and just relied on killing everything the opponent plays.

Standard distracted us from this plan for a little while because C’Thun and N’Zoth took over as the kings of Control decks, but a huge part of the reason why the Fatigue Warrior strategy disappeared is because of the departure of Shieldmaiden. Now don’t get me wrong, Ironforge Portal is no Shieldmaiden (which by the way, Trump compared to Priestess of Elune when it was first revealed), but gaining armour and putting a minion into play that can occupy your opponent’s mid-game for a turn is exactly what that style of deck was looking for. This innocent-looking card has opened up the possibility for Warriors to return to Killin’ ‘em all.

A Tier D card (the lowest tier) according to Frodan’s Twitter poll over 1100 votes. Nope, no way.

The Curator

Alright, this time, I actually can’t quite believe that people thought this was bad. Let’s try and break this down as best we can. Ancient of Lore was considered one of the most oppressive cards in the game for a very long time, to the point where Blizzard, infamously frugal with their nerfbat, chose to take action against it. Ancient of Lore was a 7 Mana 5/5 that mostly drew you two cards and was sometimes used to heal for five. So far so good.

Now, lets live in the world where Curator draws two cards. Not a difficult proposition to achieve. Dragon Warrior can play Fierce Monkey and Finley, a Beast deck is probably already pretty close to running Drakes for refuel anyway, etc, etc. So if Curator ends up drawing two cards, we’ve achieved Ancient of Lore status with arguably better stats, and a Taunt effect that can be compared to the secondary effect of “healing” you. Sounding reasonable yet?

It seems bizarre to say that this card was overlooked but the simple data says it was. 58% of 2800 votes rated this at 2 or below out of 4 on Frodan’s card review, awarding it a C Tier rating. I’m sure everyone reading this was wise enough not to make that mistake though. Right?

Maelstrom Portal

It might look like an unassuming effect, but the key point missed by many is that Tempo removal is just. So. Good. It’s printed so sparingly in the game for good reason. In such a Tempo-focused game, where board dominance is often king, the ability to “kill a thing and play a thing” is always going to be at least worth a look. So how do we go from worth a look to good? Well, there’s just so much utility. It can be played on curve to break board tension between an Argent Squire and a 3/2, it can be a much needed ping effect for a class that struggles to do one damage, it hard counters popular cards like Living Roots and Forbidden Ritual, and if you roll Spell Damage Totem it’s a freaking 2 Mana Consecration with a free minion!

The warning signs went off early when HotMEOWTH took Rank 1 Legend with a Maelstrom Portal Shaman, and since then the card has seen play in basically every possible build of Shaman. Even if Lightning Storm might seem like a stronger AoE, it is the unassuming Portal that has brought Aggro Shaman back kicking and screaming into the Zoo matchup after suffering for so long.

Tier C according to the poll data. A comfortable B at least, surely.

Malchezaar’s Imp

The bizarre misses keep on coming. I can help you out here with a piece of sagely advice so you can avoid making this mistake in the future. Simply use the following evaluation strategy: Is it a 1 Mana Warlock minion? If yes: Probably good in Zoo.

Malchezaar’s Imp, Darkshire Librarian and Silverware Golem made the DiscardLock archetype stronger than ever.

Jokes aside, this is a problem that comes up time and time again. It happened directly in the previous expansion when Possessed Villager was revealed and people asked “Is this better than Flame Imp/Voidwalker/Squire”? That question in itself is immediately leading people down the wrong alley. Zoo already plays every high quality 1-drop it can get its hands on, there is no reason why it can’t play more, and it will happily do so. When a new Mage 1-drop gets printed, it doesn’t have to be better than Mana Wyrm to see play. Cards are not always in direct competition with each other, it’s just not how deckbuilding works. Ideally you want a certain amount of redundancy in your cards to increase the consistency of drawing a solid curve. Zoo can take this idea to the extreme, because due to Life Tap they don’t get punished for overloading their deck with early-game cards.

Even if the card had no text it would still be a consideration in Zoo purely to have access to another 1/3 minion on turn 1. But I think also sliding under the radar is how absurd using Discard as a card engine actually is. It helps you to dig through your deck quicker and hit your power cards with greater consistency and it allows you cycle out dead draws like Flame Imp or Argent Squire in the late-game.

Low C Tier according to the community vote. In reality, could end up being a component of one of the strongest decks in the game.

Prince Malchezaar

Alright, so this last one is cheating a little bit. This is the exact opposite of everything else. Rated as the 4th best card in the entire set by Frodan’s Twitter poll, with 40% of 4000 voters giving it the maximum 4/4 rating.

No, guys.

Just no.

About the Author

Sottle is no stranger to the competitive environment. The compLexity Hearthstone player comes from an unorthodox background of being a Yoyo Champion in Great Britain, as well as virtually beating people up as a competitive fighting game player. Nerve-damage in his hand forced him to exchange the button mashing for the virtual card game Hearthstone. As a pro player he made his mark in the scene, as a caster he is a rising force, now the next step for him is to build up his name as a personality in the scene as well. Follow the Brit cast tournaments, play games, interact with his stream and have fun in Arena, the ladder or just Q&A sessions – Sottle is always the perfect mix between entertainment and education.