We’re well on our way toward a fully-revealed Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion for Hearthstone, and so far we’ve seen some truly dope-looking cards. If there’s any theme running through the new cards that Blizzard has revealed thus far, it’s that many of them are just plain weird, and have the potential to affect the game in unexpected ways.
Right now, Knights seems to contain a lot of random disjointed puzzle pieces that don’t seem to fit together in a set way. I don’t mean this in a bad way; I just mean that it feels a lot harder to tell where a card will fit in the context of the game as it currently stands. There are, for example, more conditional effects which only seem to work in certain decks or scenarios. There are more unprecedented interactions; one-off cards that add mechanics that the game’s never seen before. And of course, there are more “tech” cards, whose sole purpose is pretty much to counter good cards in other potent decks.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the strangest cards we’ve seen in the set so far. Note that this is early analysis based purely on the card image, and therefore some of the gameplay scenarios I’m envisioning may turn out to be inaccurate when Frozen Throne actually launches later this month. Until then, remember Day9's words about card reveals and take these evaluations for what they are: fun speculation about cool new cards.
Fatespinner: We’ve seen Deathrattles before, and we’ve seen Secrets, but Secret Deathrattles? Get outta town! As a 5 mana 5/3, Fatespinner is an acceptable body that boasts the Druid class’ defining “Choose One” mechanic, but the “Secretly” aspect gives Druid a mindgame factor it’s severely lacked.
Say you’re playing against Druid as a Zoo deck that runs a ton of minions, and this guy comes out on a board with not too many minions on it. As the Zoo player, do you stack the board with minions, risking the AOE wipe? Or do you hedge your bets, putting down just one or two minions to play around it? Maybe the opponent is a Token Druid, and can full-stack the board in a single turn, killing this guy off for a massive board, in which case you’re screwed. Maybe it’s a bluff. Either way, I’m excited for the mindgames this card brings to the table.
Corpsetaker: If you get this card out with all the benefits (which isn’t that hard to do with some quality deckbuilding), it’s a fantastic 4-drop and likely one of the best in the set. Hell, even if you land only two or three of the effects it’s still competitive. Also some great Arena potential on it. Protip: run Al’Akir the Windlord for an automatic Divine Shield/Windfury/Taunt combo.
One, two, three princes, three not-that-amazing effects that you can only take advantage of by handicapping your deck. We’ve seen a lot of these types of cards in the past, but they’ve had very conditional uses because of their deckbuilding drawbacks. The interesting idea here, though, is that these three cards encourage creative one-off deckbuilding in ways we haven’t really seen before. They might not look great on paper, but I get the feeling someone will find a way to build a disgustingly strong deck around one of these guys. Just go ahead now.
Treachery: So here’s a card that looks bad, but if you think about it for three seconds actually could have some cool uses. Paired with Doomsayer, you get an instant board clear. Paired with Bomb Squad, you deal a not-insignificant 5 damage to the opponent after dealing 5 on the Battlecry. Paired with the ultra meme card Majordomo Executus, you can turn your enemy into an 8-mana Ragnaros.
Dead Man’s Hand: This card is slow as all get-out, but I like the idea of increasing your deck size by 10 cards for only two mana. Since these are all cards you’re running in your deck anyway, they’ll pretty much all be relevant. Note that this card is most effective in long-winded battles of attrition, where each player risks falling into fatigue. Not great against aggro, which we tend to see a lot of.
Archbishop Benedictus: Unlike Dead Man’s Hand, this guy can net you way more than 10 cards, but the downside is that they’re all your opponent’s cards, and who knows what they’re running. Imagine putting this card down against a Token Shaman running ten 1-mana-cards and you can see why this could be more of a meme that waters down your deck than a viable, competitive Legendary.
Defile; Spreading Plague: Here’s a new mechanic: spells that trigger repeatedly if certain conditions are met. Defile is cool because it clears the board and can set off a domino effect if your opponent has minions of varying health totals, and Spreading Plague grants an instant board bounceback if your opponent is out-minioning you.
Bring It On!: This card is so, so cool. At first glance, it looks like the downside is way too extreme, but it’s a fantastic inclusion when the meta is leaning toward aggro decks that exhaust all their resources toward getting your health low in the first handful of turns. Once they’ve run out of gas, Bring it On! instantly stabilizes your board, allowing you to climb back in while they sit there with a busted hand and nothing effective to play. The mana reduction might also trick the opponent’s deck into falling for a high-value Brawl.
Skulking Geist: Here’s a tech card that absolutely murders a couple decks when played in the right scenario. One deck it counters is the infamous Jade Druid, which relies on the 1-mana Jade Idol spell to summon up massive Jade Golems in the late game. But it also counters a wide range of Priest decks, which rely on the Divine Spirit/Inner Fire combo to inflate minion health, then match the minion’s attack to its health, resulting in massive endgame burst damage which a lot of these decks need to close out the game. In the late game, this could be good for decks that play cards on curve and don’t want to draw their one-drops later on.
Gnomeferatu: A 2-mana 2/3 isn’t anything too special, but Gnomeferatu raised some controversy because it burns the top card of the opponent’s deck. If you burn an all-important card like Alexstrasza or Ice Block, it’s a potentially an un-counterable auto-win. But remember: the effect doesn’t actually have value unless the opponent runs through their entire deck. After all, the card you burned could have just been the bottom card and the Battlecry would have still accomplished the same thing.
Ultimate Infestation: Drawing five cards is already a valuable effect for ten mana, considering the “draw one card” effect is typically valued at around 2-ish mana. On top of that, though, this card gives you a 5/5 body, 5 damage, and armor to help you make it into the later game. It’s like a more pro-active Lay on Hands, but still won’t help you much if you’re at a huge board disadvantage.
Eternal Servitude: Resurrect effects in Hearthstone Priest have always been strong, but they’ve always felt a little too RNG-heavy to work on a consistent basis. Eternal Servitude is great because it lets you choose the minion you want to resurrect (if you’re running a couple potential targets this thing should get big value every time), and it combos well with stuff like Barnes in addition to the usual suspects like Injured Blademaster. On top of that, it’s the first time we’ve been able to actively interact with cards that have been destroyed earlier in the game.
Valeera the Hollow; Death’s Shadow; Shadow Reflection: Of all the new Death Knight hero cards released in the set so far, Valeera the Hollow is probably the most complex. Hell, even I’m kind of confused about what she does, but here’s my stab at it (pun intended): she brings a passive hero power that turns into the copy of the latest card you’ve played, which you can use to double up on whatever card you want. Great for combo-ing and Miracle Rogue shenanigans that can benefit from flexible tempo and value every turn. She’s also got Stealth, which in addition to being badass, is a first for any hero card.
Joshua Calixto (@hitherejosh) writes about esports, culture, and technology.