Kyle’s Deck of the Week: Karazhan Constructed Set Review – Part 1

One Night at Karazhan Constructed Set Review: Part 1
Kyle's Banner Card BacksKyle “EndBoss” Smith

The new adventure is finally here this coming Thursday, and it is time to have a party!!!

Before I get started on the treasure’s of Medivh’s magical tower, however, I just wanted to send a shout out to all of those that played in this past weekend’s First EndBoss Online Open. Overseer and I had a blast casting the event, and are planning to do it again soon! Major props to our champion Dunamis, who swept the finals with an awesome N’Zoth Shaman deck over finalist Tlahuicole! Dunamis had an awesome selection of decks which also included a fantastically innovative Reno Mage list that carried him through the semi-finals. The decklists for our top 8 finishers will be available with next week’s article, and the archived video for the stream can be found here. The video of the two semi-finals start at 3:34:15 and 4:02:30 respectively, while the finals video starts at 4:59:38, and the interview with our champion Dunamis starts at 5:48:54. Thanks to all who played, and if you are interested in playing in our next one you can sign up for our mailing list here to be among the first to hear of our next event.

And now to the new cards!

Karazhan has some powerful new cards, which will definitely impact both Standard and Wild formats. Between today and next Tuesday, I am going to go through and review Karazhan’s treasures, addressing their potential impact in constructed Hearthstone play, and do some theorycrafting, providing some draft lists designed to highlight some methods of taking advantage of the new tools that Medivh has bestowed upon us. Come join the discussion on Reddit and tell me your thoughts on these cards.

While Blizzard has still not told us which cards will be released on which day, but they have told us that there are 45 cards in the set. As such, I will be starting today with the cards that are speculated to be released this coming Thursday, plus a couple extra to get today’s total to 15 cards, so I can get through all 45 cards in the next 3 weeks. (P.S. Blizzard, you could have made this easier on me by just telling us what cards are in which wing. Please consider doing this for next time!)

Personally, I don’t like the 1-5 star rating system, since I don’t really think they mean much. As such, I will be dividing cards into the following classifications:

All-Star: These are the cards that will define constructed formats, either through widespread use in existing archetypes or through creating new ones.
        Examples: Sylvanas Windrunner, Call of the Wild, Flamewreathed Faceless
Staple: These cards that will see regular play in decks that can support them.
        Examples: Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Brawl, Abusive Sergeant
Build-Around: These cards have potential, but only in decks that are built to harness their power. These cards may be All-Stars if their archetypes work out, but will never be staples outside of those decks, and will likely end up anchoring fringe archetypes.
        Examples: Lock and Load, Y’Shaarj, Rage Unbound, C’Thun
Role Player: These cards will see play semi-regularly to fill specific roles or as tech choices for specific metagames.
        Examples: Feral Rage, Big Game Hunter, Harrison Jones,
Casual Card: These cards have fun or splashy effects, but are not competitively viable.
        Example: Blood of the Ancient One, Herald Volazj, Tree of Life
Chaff: You should never see these in a competitive deck, and they don’t have particularly fun effects either.
        Examples: Nat, the Darkfisher, Wisp, Booty Bay Bodyguard

So, now that we have the parameters set, let’s start working through some cards!

August 11th: Prologue

Prince Malchezaar
Verdict: Casual Card

The Prince seems like a lot of fun for beginner players, because he lets FTP (free to play) players make use of legend cards they normally wouldn’t get to play. That having been said, Pit Fighter isn’t seeing much play as a vanilla 5/6, and the Prince is basically just that, in terms of predictable value. His effect is a little too unpredictable to be taken advantage of effectively in an competitive environment. After all, if you wanted Nat, the Darkfisher in a competitive deck, you would have put him in there in the first place.

That having said, this past weekend’s champion, Dunamis, identified this as a card that he was eager to try out in fatigue control decks (see the interview with him at 5:48:54 of the archived video here). Apparently, your extra legend cards are coded not to land in your hand until after mulligans. The Prince would give fatigue control decks the ability to outlast opponents by fatiguing 5 cards later than usual, while potentially also providing those decks with an ability to obtain some sexy legends that would provide value in the meantime. I still don’t know that this is enough for the card to make it in constructed, but I am eager to see innovative players like Dunamis give it a try.

Enchanted Raven
Verdict: Staple

Now, this is what I’m talking about. A 2/2 for 1 with a relevant creature type is definitely viable. This is Mark of Y’Shaarj’s new best friend. Dropping Raven on turn 1, and following up by Mark’ing and taking down an opposing minion is a pretty devastating tempo start. Even without that, however, Raven trades up into a lot of relevant minions such as Huge Toad, Knife Juggler and Direwolf Alpha. Most importantly, Raven gives Beast Druid a viable one-drop that the deck was previously lacking. Just ask Tunnel Trogg how a viable one-drop can rejuvenate an archetype.

Firelands Portal
Verdict: Role Player

Firelands Portal definitely has a strong power level. A random 5 drop minion is probably worth about 4 mana of value (since you lose the choice of which 5 cost minion you get), while 5 damage is probably worth about 3 mana (based on Fireball costing 4 for 6 mana), and getting both of them while only costing you one card is definitely strong. The problem this card has is that 7 mana is a lot. Even the absurdly powerful Archmage Antonidas has been dropped from many Tempo Mage lists for being too expensive, and Portal cannot claim that power level. Flamestrike is also in that slot, and fills a role that is likely more valuable (ie. Clearing wide board states), as Mage is not short of ways to kill a single 5 toughness creature.

I have no doubt that Portal will be a beast in Arena, but I suspect it will only see occasional play in constructed due to the fact that Mages just don’t play very many 7 mana cards.

August 11th – The Parlor

Deadly Fork
Verdict: Chaff

The value simply isn’t here on this card. Three mana is expensive for a 3/2, and the Shark Fork you get when it dies costs you an additional 3 mana. If the Deadly Fork equipped the weapon when it died, we would have a competitive card, or even if the first part of the card costed 2 mana. As it stands, however, both sides of the card are overcosted, and Rogue is not in the business of playing overcosted cards for minimal card advantage like this. As such, I can’t see this seeing any competitive play.

Silverware Golem
Verdict: Role Player with Staple potential

The big question on how much play this guy will see is: how viable is Discard Warlock. A 3/3 for 3 is fine in Arena, but not constructed worthy. Zoolock does often already play Soulfire and Doomguard, but those cards are usually mulliganed and then saved, when drawn, for a final burst to win the game. Getting a random 3/3 when your opponent is dead on board is pretty useless, and you aren’t playing Silverware Golem so that you can cast it on turn 3 instead of Darkshire Councilman. This guy wants to be in a dedicated discard deck. He is very key cog in a deck like that, and Blizzard seems to want that archetype to be viable. Succubus on turn 2 discarding this guy is pretty bonkers. If Discard Warlock is a viable deck, then this guy is a Staple card in it. Silverware Golem by itself is not enough to make that archetype viable, but if there were one more good card for the archetype…

Malchezaar's Imp
Verdict: Role Player with All Star Potential

This guy is the other part of the equation when talking about Discard Warlock. While Silverware Golem is almost certainly being released on August 11th (as he is a boss in that wing), it is currently unknown when Malchezaar’s Imp will be released. Since the Imp’s fate is so closely linked to Silverware Golem, however, this seems like as good a place as any to discuss his implications.

Like Silverware Golem, this guy is clearly designed with a Discard Warlock deck in mind. That having been said, this card is strong enough that it has constructed potential even outside of a dedicated discard deck. 1/3 for 1 is a respectable enough stat line for a Zoolock creature, as long as it comes with a decent ability, and giving you the ability to negate the drawbacks from Soulfire or Doomguard early in the game could be enough incentive for Zoolock to give this guy a try.

At the end of the day, however, what makes the Imp a potential All Star is his ability to enable the Warlock Discard deck that Blizzard never quite gave us the tools to run before. Here’s my first shot at putting it together:
    2 Soulfire
    2 Flame Imp
     2 Malchezaar’s Imp
     2 Abusive Sergeant
     2 Possessed Villager
     2 Voidwalker
     2 Power Overwhelming
     2 Dire Wolf Alpha
     2 Dark Peddler
     2 Darkshire Librarian
     2 Succubus
     2 Tiny Knight of Evil
     2 Silverware Golem
     2 Fist of Jaraxxus
     2 Doomguard

Testing will tell whether a Darkshire Councilman/Knife Juggler/Forbidden Ritual package should be in here, but I just went with the balls-to-the-wall aggression to see how the full boat of discard effects ends up playing out. I figure that you want as many low drops as possible, so that you can empty your hand quickly. Knowing that your only discard option is Silverware Golem or Fist of Jaraxxus makes sequencing a lot easier.

Kara Kazham!
Verdict: Chaff

Worst Call of the Wild ever!

There is value here, but 3 creatures, providing a combined 6/6 in stats, is not something that really excites competitive players, unless they have charge. The card also runs into the distinct issue of lacking a viable home. Warlock has two viable archetypes right now: Zoolock and Renolock (with the aforementioned Discard Warlock being a possible third). Zoolock (and Discard Warlock) won’t want the card because it is too slow, and Renolock doesn’t want it because it is not powerful enough.

This card’s use will probably be limited to Fantasia fans.

Priest of the Feast
Verdict: Role Player

Well, it is a Priest card, so that is one strike against it.

Seriously though, this is actually a pretty solid card, which may or may not have a useful home. 3/6 is a solid enough stat line. Hooded Acolyte has seen some limited play with similar stats. Compared to Acolyte, however, Priest of the Feast has much more flexibility, in that the only requirement for his ability to be useful is that you are playing spells (which every Priest deck should be playing in abundance anyways). Priest is usually playing from behind (because the class sucks…ok, well also because it generally wants to be a control archetype), so this is a card that aggro decks have to respect. Playing this on turn 4 followed by Coin and Power Word: Shield is pretty saucy against an aggro deck like Zoolock. This card may not end up having a viable archetype to give it a home (especially seeing as it falls in the same slot as Auchenai Soulpriest and Shifting Shade), but it has the power level to see some constructed play, if such a home materializes.

Onyx Bishop
Verdict: Staple

If there is one card in this set that gives me hope for the Priest class, it is this one. In terms of value, a 3/4 creature is worth slightly less than 3 mana (see Twilight Elder), so this battlecry has to provide just over 2 mana worth of value to be worthwhile, which seems super easy to achieve. Getting the two parts out of one card, provides enough additional value to put this on a different level than Resurrect. You have a good amount of control over this ability because Bishop only summons friendly minions who die (not opposing ones), so if you play spells for the first few turns, followed by a turn 4 Shifting Shade, you can easily trade that Shade in on turn 5 before playing your Bishop. Getting a vanilla 3/4 plus a Shifting Shade for 5 mana? Yeah, I can get into that.

Even if you are only recovering a Loot Hoarder with the Onyx Bishop, you are getting very solid value out of the card (considering that Loot Hoarder is worth more than 2 mana if it doesn’t cost you an additional card to play). All of this discussion doesn’t even take into account the late game possibilities of drawing an Onyx Bishop and getting a Sylvanas, Cairne or Ragnaros back!

The Bishop slots pretty solidly into the N’Zoth Priest archetype (despite some poor synergy with Museum Curator), and has the potential to enable some interesting combo’ish archetypes, too (maybe a Resurrect themed deck). The only question of how much play he sees, in my mind, is how much play the Priest class ends up seeing as a whole.

Ivory Knight
Verdict: Role Player

Ivory Knight is a card that I like more than most. The closest comparable card is Azure Drake. Instead of getting to draw a random card from your deck and getting the spell damage ability, you can Discover a Paladin spell and restore health, for one additional mana. The restoring health is a very important aspect of this card, as this is undoubtedly a card that wants to be in a control shell, and the extra health makes it a lot easier to deal with the tempo loss of dropping an over-costed minion. Hitting a Lay on Hands is the dream with this card, but you can also hit cards like Enter the Coliseum, Solemn Vigil or Stand Against Darkness that will gain you a decent amount of life, while giving you a pretty strong effect, thereafter. The flexibility of the Discover effect is also very important, in terms of the card’s value. A random card from an Azure Drake is nice, but having the ability to choose from three options increases the likelihood of finding a card that will have a higher impact on a given board state.

The problem this card will have is finding a home. It is not a natural fit in N’Zoth Paladin, since it is competing with Sylvanas and Cairne Bloodhoof, so Knight probably doesn’t see play there. That having been said, if Anyfin Can Happen Paladin ends up being a viable archetype, then I would definitely slot a couple of Ivory Knights in there. You are probably only going to hit Anyfin itself one in every 9-10 times with the Knight (since there are 28 Paladin spells in standard right now, and one more coming in Karazhan), but the fact that you would want to pick it (whereas N’Zoth Paladin definitely doesn’t) changes the math on Knight’s value. A previously useless discover option now becomes an ideal draw, which gains you 10 life and gives you your win condition. Of course, other already great discover options like Lay on Hands, Enter the Colisseum, Consecration, Equality, etc, still retain their value in this archetype for those times when Anyfin doesn’t show up. Also, Cairne doesn’t fit into the Anyfin Paladin archetype, so it is much easier to fit the card into the list.

Moroes
Verdict: Chaff

I feel like I am missing something with this one. The first wing’s legendary card of the last couple adventures were Emperor Thaurissan and Reno Jackson. I expected Moroes to be a splashy powerhouse legend like its predecessors to get people excited about the adventure. Maybe there is some fantastic interaction that I am missing with this one, but I just don’t see it. Conceivably, you could run it in Paladin, alongside Steward of Darkshire, I suppose, but it still seems too slow for that archetype. Without some sort of powerful synergy that I am missing, Moroes just seems like he will get killed by Ravaging Ghoul a whole lot. When Arcane Missiles wrecks your whole strategy, you might want to think of trying a new one.

Protect the King
Verdict: Role Player, maybe

Token producing cards have certainly proven their worth (see Unleash the Hounds and Forbidden Ritual), but I just don’t see it this time. This card has a lot of similarities to Unleash the Hounds, which should make it pretty good, but trading Charge for Taunt hurts a lot, and Warrior is simply not set-up to make use of a card like this. The anti-synergy between this and Ravaging Ghoul is pretty staggering, and I am pretty sure Ravaging Ghoul is going to win the battle for those slots much more often than not. You are also competing against staples like Bash and Shield Block in the 3-drop slot.

To make this card viable you would really need a new Warrior archetype. Bolster presents some interesting possibilities, but we would need to see more support cards before it would be worth trading in our Ravaging Ghouls.

Overall, this card just seems to be in the wrong class. We would be having a totally different conversation about this card if it had been printed in Druid, for instance.

Unknown Release Date Cards

These next few cards may be released this coming Thursday, could be coming out in early September, or could come out on either of the Thursdays in between. We don’t know yet, but since there are 45 cards in the set, I am going to add a couple of extra reviewed cards so I can get through 15 cards a week, and do my overall review of the set in 3 weeks.

Arcane Anomaly
Verdict: Staple

This guy doesn’t have the power level to be considered an all-star, but he might actually be the most impactful card in the set on the metagame. The cheaper a card is, the more games it can impact, and so this guy will make an impact on a lot of games. A vanilla 2/1 for 1 is not quite constructed playable, but doesn’t require much of an ability to get there (see Fiery Bat). A vanilla 2/2 for 1 is a solid staple card (see my review of Enchanted Raven above), and a 2/3 for 1 is a card that can see lots of play even with a pretty significant drawback (see Zombie Chow). I doesn’t take much to get Arcane Anomaly to a 2/3, especially if you are on The Coin. Arcane Anomaly is by no means the most powerful one-drop out there. Either Tunnel Trogg, Mana Wyrm or Flame Imp probably take that title; however, all of those are class cards. This guy is by far the best neutral one-drop in standard for most archetypes (I don’t count Abusive Sergeant because you really never want to play him on turn 1). This guy will make several archetypes far more consistent and powerful. Tempo Mage is a scary deck when you have a turn 1 Mana Wyrm, and a much less scary deck otherwise, but Tempo Mage hasn’t had any good options to supplement the Wyrm in the one-drop slot…until now! Hybrid Hunter decks have been running Argent Squire recently for another reasonable turn 1 play to accompany Fiery Bat. Arcane Anomaly will steal that slot for sure due to his additional point of power and the prevalence of early Hunter spells (ie. Animal Companion, Quick Shot, every Hunter Secret, etc). Druid just got Enchanted Raven to slip into their one-drop slot, but in an aggressive beast list, this would provide solid redundancy (despite not having the ideal creature type) for those games where you don’t draw the bird. Druid has lots of early spells like Innervate, Living Roots, Wrath and Wild Growth to power Anomaly up. Overall, you should expect to see a lot of this guy over the next couple of years. Viable neutral one-drops are rare for a reason, and this guy has a lot of potential homes.

Also, props to Blizzard’s design team on this one. It is really great to see a good neutral one-drop that helps enable multiple archetypes, without moving the needle for Zoolock. Zoolock just doesn’t run enough spells that it wants to play in the first few turns to make this card much more than a 2/1 for 1 most of the time.

It doesn’t require much theorycrafting to come up with a Tempo Mage deck that makes use of Anomaly (Just make room for two slots in an existing Tempo Mage list), so I am going to take a look at a more out-of-the-box use for Anomaly in a class that is less obvious: Priest!

     2 Circle of Healing
     2 Flash Heal
     2 Holy Smite
    2 Power Word: Shield
    2 Northshire Cleric
     2 Arcane Anomaly
     1 Shadow Word: Pain
     2 Wild Pyromancer
     2 Shadow Word: Death
     2 Injured Blademaster
     2 Auchenai Soulpriest
     2 Shifting Shade
     1 Darkshire Alchemist
     1 Onyx Bishop
     1 Excavated Evil
     1 Entomb
     1 Cairne Bloodhoof
     1 Sylvanas Windrunner
     1 N’Zoth, the Corruptor

Northshire Cleric is one of those solid one-drops that has seen a lot of play throughout the years, but recently has been lacking a good partner in crime. Arcane Anomaly fits very smoothly into the Priest game plan, due to its ability to hold the board in the early game. Priest has missed having Zombie Chow since that card rotated into Wild, and Anomaly has the potential to be even better in that slot. The longer he stays on the board, the more value Anomaly can get. Turn 1 Anomaly, coin, Power Word: Shield gives you a 2/5 with the potential to keep growing in future turns. With Priest’s hero power, a powered up Anomaly can keep getting value for even longer, and can give a Zoolock deck fits. Smite also provides a good early game spell to partner with Anomaly to help control opposing aggression.
Of course, one of my favorite interactions with Arcane Anomaly is how well it fits next to Wild Pyromancer. Your Anomaly keeps growing as the Pyromancer keeps triggering (I believe Anomaly’s effect occurs first, meaning you can start doing this with Anomaly at 1 health), so if you can keep your Pyromancer alive for a couple of activations (through healing or Power Word: Shield), then you can do a lot of damage to an opposing board in very little time without killing your one-drop.

I have tried Onyx Bishop in here to test it out, although the deck’s 4 one-drops are less than ideal resurrection targets. Priest of the Feast could certainly fit into this deck, too, but I think that Soulpriest and Shifting Shade are better options in the 4-drop slot for this build.

What this would dearly love is to be able to run about 2 more copies of Power Word: Shield, which has fantastic synergy in the deck. Any other cheap cantrip card that could be played proactively would help a lot, too, although I don’t know that we are desperate enough to play Mind Vision just yet.

Runic Egg
Verdict: Role Player, with chaff potential

This card seems like it could be an “enabler card” (ie. Enabling some sort of combo or synergy), but I don’t know what it is really supposed to enable at present. Zoolock has the tools to use it best, with Power Overwhelming and Abusive Sergeant to trade in the initial body while gaining value, like it used to do with Nerubian Egg. Fortunately for all of us who hate playing against Zoolock, the deathrattle effect here isn’t nearly the tempo boost that Nerubian’s was. Putting in effort to get a cantrip is a waste of time, so you really need to be getting solid value out of the egg’s ability. I don’t think that we have the tools to get enough value out of the Egg at the moment, but this is a card that could see play in the future if new sets end up providing those tools.

Pantry Spider
Verdict: Chaff

Haunted Creeper this is not!
Echoing Ooze only saw fringe play with a similar effect, despite the combo potential it had to copy pump effects. I just don’t see any incentive to pay 3 mana for two 1/3’s. This probably would have needed Taunt to be viable, but as-is there is just way too much competition in the 3 drop slot from creatures that provide a much better rate (ie. Brann, Argent Horserider, Acolyte of Pain, Disciple of C’Thun, Aldor Peacekeeper, Ravaging Ghoul, etc, etc, etc).

Conclusion and Sign Off
We have come to the end of Part 1 of my Karazhan review. Tune in next Tuesday when I will be back discussing the August 18th wing (which probably contains the most powerful card in the set), and providing some more theorycrafted lists.

In other news, Overseer and I had a blast running and streaming our First Hearthstone Online Open this past weekend, so we are currently looking for a suitable date to run another one! If you are interested in being the first to hear about our upcoming tournaments, you can join our mailing list here (add link to mailing list), and if you are only interested in hearing about when my future articles are posted, then you can subscribe below. In either case, I assure you we do not sell any of your information, and will only use it to tell you about the EndBoss articles or events that you have indicated that you want to hear about.

Cheers, and see you all next Tuesday with part 2 of my One Night in Karazhan set review!