My editor thought it would be a good idea to do some follow-up coverage on Hearthstone’s new expansion, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, that talks about what I actually did with my 200 packs of cards after buying them with real money/fake gold on launch day.
This isn’t going to be the most technical dive into the meta, as I’m no pro, but I do play Hearthstone almost daily, and have gotten a chance to wait and see how ranked play has shaken out since Gadgetzan’s launch. Anyone who has played at all the past couple weeks can probably point to a few ultra-strong classes/decks right now, and I wanted to discuss what’s working and what isn’t.
Obviously, people can do well with unconventional decks and classes depending on their skill and decision making, but right now, here are the power rankings as I see them. I am more than sure that many of you will disagree with me.
Druid has practically always been one of the strongest classes in Hearthstone, and I’ve seen everything from Ramp to Force of Nature to Token to Malygos Druid take over the metagame at one point or another. But now we are living in the era of the Jade Druid, which uses the new “Jade Golem” mechanic to be one of the most powerful new decks in the game. Thanks to a Druid’s ability to ramp up to max mana quickly, and the ability of Jade Golem decks to spit out huge creatures for minimal cost later in the game, Jade Druids, with Gadgetzan Auctioneer cycle mechanics, can quickly escalate to become unstoppable. Once you start having to deal with 1-3 mana 6/6s or 7/7s or 8/8s every single turn, it’s more or less game over.
This really has been Priest’s expansion. They got important new cards like the 3 mana Kabal Talonpriest which gives another minion +3 health. They got fantastic new dragon cards like Drakonid Operative, a 5 mana 5/6 that discovers a card from your opponent’s deck, and it’s one of the strongest cards in the game right now. They have a new powerful board clear with Dragonfire Potion. They even have a viable Reno-style deck as their legendary makes your hero power free. Both Dragon Priest and Reno Priest (and combinations of the two) are huge right now, and this is the best spot I’ve seen Priest in, possibly ever. It’s been a long time coming, but we’ll see if a counter-meta develops soon.
There’s only one Warrior deck anyone is talking about right now, and it’s Pirate-Weapon-Face-Rush Warrior. This new, crazily aggressive deck is made possible by a few new Gadgetzan cards, namely Small-Time Buccaneer which is a 1 mana 3/2 any time you have a weapon (which is frequently), Patches the Pirates, a new legendary that flies out of your deck as a 1/1 charge when you play a turn 1 or 2 pirate, and then Hobart Grapplehammer, the new Warrior Legendary that gives every weapon you have +1 attack. All of these combine with old cards like Bloodsail Raider, Fiery War Axe and Arcanite Reaper to deliver incredible amounts of damage very quickly. I’ve had success beating this deck with big Druid decks or all-taunt anti-Warrior decks, but even then, it’s often a coin-flip. But this is a relatively cheap, easy deck and it feels like the return of Face Hunter all over again, but even worse.
Shaman was far and away the best class before all this, and it’s still powerful now. I think the reason you don’t see it as often these days is because most people are using decks from one of the three above classes, but that doesn’t mean the cards that were rocking the metagame aren’t still good. And with the addition of the Jade Golem mechanic for the class, and a big new deathrattle legendary for some N’zoth options, Shaman is still in a solid spot. It may not be the clear king of the hill like it once was, but its powerhouse cards haven’t gone anywhere. I think players are still figuring out optimal Shaman builds in this new era, and I expect we’ll see it more often soon enough.
Warlock didn’t get any absolutely crazy gamechanging cards, in my opinion, but thanks to its existing spells and new ones like Kazakus, Reno Warlock decks are all over the place now, and incredibly powerful, full of big board clears which help against Jade Golem decks, and individual removal which helps against Dragons. From my experience, however, you do not want to be a Reno Warlock facing off against a Pirate Warrior. I still see traditional zoo decks as well which are always strong, but less so than other options these days. I really wanted a cool demon deck to break out, but so far I haven’t seen any that are terribly compelling outside of the new demons included in some Reno decks.
Mage is Mage. It’s always a pretty solid class with reliable tempo and Freeze Mage will probably continue to be played until the end of time. Now, there are some pretty neat Reno Mage decks making the rounds, and their new legendary allows for a free spell cast if that mechanic is used. I haven’t seen anything new Mage decks that are all that exciting or dominating, but nor does the class seem weak either.
Now we’re getting into classes that…aren’t in the best shape. Paladin has some aggro/flood decks made possible by some new cards like Smugglers Run (give all minions in your hand +1/+1) and Grimstreet Outfitter (same effect), but there are better options out there, and old school control/midrange Paladin is just gone completely. Divine Favor helps to make Aggro Paladin as viable as ever, but compared to all these other options, Paladin feels like it’s not in the best place.
Alas, poor Rogue. They have the Jade Golem mechanic that works pretty well for Druid and Shaman, but less so here unless the deck is in very capable hands. Most of their new minions rely on stealth mechanics, but it’s pretty hard to make those work well with so many AOE board clears in the game now. I have seen pro streamers do some pretty cool things with Rogue decks, but for the general populace, I think Rogue is firmly in the bottom tier. Blizzard seems to have forgotten the class even uses weapons, and past nerfs to cards like Blade Fury have crippled Rogue for ages now. Someday Rogue may make its comeback, but for now, it remains pretty close to the bottom of the heap.
Secret Hunter may have dominated a few weeks ago, but I’ve seen almost none of that since Gadgetzan hit. Hunter, like Paladin, uses the “buff stuff in your hand” mechanic, which Warrior also uses, but not for its famed Pirate deck. I think it’s pretty clear compared to the Reno/Potion options of Mage/Warlock/Priest and the Jade Golems of Druid/Shaman/Rogue, the “buff hand” mechanic of the Goons just isn’t cutting it. I have seen Aya Blackpaw and Kazakus, the tri-class legendaries, in almost every deck for those classes, but I have yet to see anyone actually play a Han’Cho after all this time. I’ve tried to build beast Hunter decks that rely on buffs, and when they work they can be fun, but the mechanic is too inconsistent for it to be all that viable. As such, Hunter has now landed squarely at the bottom of the heap, for now.
So, what am I playing?
Druid has always been my favorite class, but much like C’thun, I don’t really actually enjoy the new Jade Golem mechanic. I’ve been playing a crazy aggressive “Egg Druid” which involves buffing small cards, but also the exact opposite, a super greedy Ultra Ramp Druid where thanks to the new Forgotten King legendary, if I can make it to turn 10, between him and Anivia, I can play 6 enormous minions in one turn which can crush everything short of a Warlock with Twisting Nether. It’s a lot of fun, and one of the few decks I didn’t rip from the internet.
I’ve also really been liking the new strong Priest decks, and I play Reno Warlock too when I can. I tried to make Demon Warlock work, but I’ve had mixed results. I can stomach playing Pirate Warrior for more than a game or two because it’s just so irritating. I really, really tried to make some cool Hunter decks with the new buffs, but those winrates were…not good.
Pirate Warrior is a scourge that needs to be wiped off the earth, and I’m starting to get pretty annoyed with Jade Druid as well, even though those games take longer to tell you you’ve lost. I don’t know what nerfs may be coming, but as ever, some enormously strong decks have emerged very quickly after this expansion’s release.
So, tell me all the ways I’m wrong about all this.
Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Pick up my sci-fi novels, The Last Exodus, The Exiled Earthborn and The Sons of Sora, which are now in print, online and on audiobook.
Why does The Walking Dead have such lasting appeal? Find out below: