Kyle’s Deck of the Week: Karazhan Constructed Set Review – Part 2

Kyle's Banner Card BacksOne Night at Karazhan Constructed Set Review: Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of my set review, you can catch up here.

At the time of writing that first one, we didn’t have the full list of when everything was being released, so a couple cards that have yet to be released were reviewed last time (Onyx Bishop, Prince Malchezaar, Malcezaar’s Imp, Kara Khazam, and Runic Egg), while two cards that got released this past week were not reviewed (Maelstrom Portal and Cloaked Huntress). I will start today with those two cards I missed last time, and then move into the wings that will be released this coming Thursday and the following Thursday (while skipping the cards that I have already reviewed previously). Overall, I am aiming for 15 cards in each article (so the 45 cards from the set will be done over 3 parts), so if I stop in the middle of next week’s wing, that is the reason why.

With that said, let’s recap the classification system and get into another set of Karazhan cards!

As I mentioned last week, 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

August 11th – The Parlor (cards I missed)

Maelstrom PortalMaelstrom Portal
Verdict: Role Player

I skipped this card by accident last week, but I probably could have skipped it on purpose this week, because Arcane Explosion has been around as long as Hearthstone has been a thing, and so we can be pretty sure that this card will see about the same amount of play. The Portal has the added advantage of giving you a random one-drop minion, which is a nice boost, but doesn’t move the needle much in terms of playability. If you wouldn’t want Arcane Explosion in your deck, you probably wouldn’t want this either.

Ultimately, this card has a role to play (clearing wide boards of small dudes), so it could see some competitive play, but you probably aren’t slotting this card into many decks over Lightning Storm, and since that card isn’t about to rotate out any time soon, I suspect Maelstorm Portal will only see play as an occasional tech card, likely as a 3rd copy of Lightning Storm, if there is a deck out there that wants that.

Cloaked HuntressCloaked Huntress
Verdict: Build Around with Staple Potential

Now, this is a card that I would have liked to review before it became legal, because this one has some serious competitive constructed implications!
The closest comp for this card is probably Kirin Tor Mage (4/3 for 3 Mage minion who makes your next Secret cost zero). Kirin Tor Mage sees occasional play, and I, personally, played it to excellent effect in a secret-oriented Tempo Mage deck this past fall, before Mad Scientist rotated. Cloaked Huntress has a better body than Kirin Tor Mage, since it doesn’t trade down to commonly played minions like Huge Toad and Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Huntress also has a much more powerful ability, since it enables an unlimited number of secrets to be played for free, while Kirin Tor Mage limits you to only one freebie.

While Kirin Tor Mage enables more expensive secrets (because Mage ones cost 3 and Hunter ones cost 2), Cloaked Huntress has the added advantage that Hunter secrets are just generally better than Mage secrets right now. 3 mana is a lot more than 2, which is why Ice Block is the only Mage secret that sees play now that Mad Scientist is a Wild only card. Meanwhile, Freezing Trap, Bear Trap, Snake Trap, Explosive Trap and Snipe all see some amount of occasional play in standard.

The key with building a deck around the Huntress, in my opinion, is not overcommitting to the traps, since you don’t want to stuff your deck with 2 drops when you don’t draw her. Even when you do draw her, you want to be careful not to run out of gas by dropping a hand full of secrets and having little follow-up. You want to aim to play Huntress plus one or maybe two secrets as a tempo play on turn 3. Lock and Load also presents some intriguing possibilities, but I think that, in terms of competitive decks, that synergy is not enough to anchor an archetype. The Huntress/Lock synergy is likely only viable as a supplementary piece (ie. In a deck that wants both cards, but is strong in games where the combo doesn’t come together). 

August 18th – The Opera

Kindly GrandmotherKindly Grandmother
Verdict: Staple

This card should become an automatic staple in Hybrid Hunter lists. The random 1/1 body you start with may not seem like much, but with cards like Abusive Sergeant, Dire Wolf Alpha and Houndmaster to pump it up, the Kindly Grandmother has a lot of ways to trade up, even before we get to the much stronger second body the card provides. Never underestimate sticky minions like this. This card fills a slot that has been left vacant since Haunted Creeper crawled into the Wild earlier this year. And, much like Haunted Creeper, Kindly Grandmother is a beast on both sides, providing a relatively reliable Houndmaster or Kill Command enabler.

That having been said, I want to take a look at the new archetype this card could enable: N’Zoth Hunter.

I have wanted Princess Huhuran to be a viable standard card since I first saw her, and apparently Blizzard did, too. I experimented with N’Zoth Hunter right after the release of Whispers, but it wasn’t quite there. The biggest thing it was missing was a couple of early drops with strong Deathrattle effects. Playing a Princess Huhuran in order to trigger Huge Toad’s deathrattle effect just isn’t exciting anyone, but getting a bonus 3/2 from your 6/5 for 5 is much more intriguing. Forlorn Stalker also seemed like a card with potential that didn’t quite have enough support behind it to be competitively viable. Kindly Grandmother, however, might give us a critical mass of strong early drops to make a full-on Deathrattle Hunter deck a viable concept.

Here is a sketch of how it could look:
2 x Fiery Bat
2 x Abusive Sergeant
2 x Kindly Grandmother
2 x Huge Toad
1 x Bloodmage Thalnos
2 x Quick Shot
2 x Forlorn Stalker
1 x Spawn of N’Zoth
1 x Animal Companion
1 x Eaglehorn Bow
1 x Unleash the Hounds
2 x Kill Command
2 x Infested Wolf
1 x Houndmaster
1 x Infested Tauren
1 x Princess Huhuran
1 x Sylvanas Windrunner
2 x Savannah Highmane
2 x Call of the Wild
1 x N’Zoth, the Corruptor

There are a few more 1-ofs in here then there would likely be in a more refined list, but that is how testing lists should be built. By using more one-ofs you get to try out a broader range of cards and figure out which ones work better than expected, and which ones just don’t carry their weight.
This list has 14 deathrattle minions to support Forlorn Stalker. Abusive Sergeant isn’t totally on-theme, but still likely earns his slot by allowing cards like Kindly Grandmother, Bloodmage Thalnos and your various beast tokens to trade-up in combat. I don’t know if Spawn of N’Zoth is going to end up being good enough to keep its slot, but it seems worth trying in a deck like this, since it can get buffed by Stalker and has the capability to create some awkward board states for your opponent to try to clear.

I’m looking forward to giving this list a try. Anyone with any suggestions on how to improve it, please pass them along on the reddit thread here.

Pompous ThespianPompous Thespian
Verdict: Chaff

This card seems much more focussed on Arena play, and will be a solid card there. For constructed purposes, however, there just doesn’t seem to be any situation where it would make sense to play it. Two toughness taunt just isn’t that big. I can’t envisage a situation where I would choose this card over Bilefin Hunter, for instance, who gets the same stats, but does it over 2 bodies. This card would have needed something else, like a relevant creature type, to push it into the constructed conversation.

Barnes
Verdict: All Star

Barnes
Now this is the sort of build-around card that makes brewers, like myself, drool! This guy’s power level seems too obvious to slot him into the “Build-Around” category, however. I am pretty sure that Barnes will make a very strong impact on the metagame in multiple archetypes. Barnes has an incredible power level, if you can manage to harness it, and could very well be the best card in the set.

The first thing to notice is the fact that you aren’t paying all that much for the ability, even if you only get a vanilla 1/1. Barnes plus his token give you a Chillwind Yeti worth of stats over two bodies, even if you hit a creature with no relevant ability. But, if you do hit a creature with a relevant ability, the value you get out of him skyrockets! Ideally, you want to hit something with a static ability or end of turn ability (ie. Ragnaros, Emperor Thaurissan or Y’Shaarj), or you want to hit something with a deathrattle ability (ie. Sylvanas, Cairne or Tirion).

The key to abusing Barnes’ ability is by trying to make the effect more predictable, and the best way to do that is to run a list with as few “misses” as possible. N’Zoth decks seem like the most natural home, among existing decks. Early drops like Loot Hoarder make fine hits and late drops like Sylvanas and Tirion make for brutally powerful hits.

Alternatively, the Questing Adventurer Rogue deck I wrote about a couple of weeks ago would be a fantastic home. Gadgetzan Auctioneer is the ideal hit, but Bloodmage Thalnos, Tomb Pillager are solid hits, too. Also, while Edwin is a “miss”, Questing Adventurer itself is another pretty strong hit with Barnes. Adventurer certainly won’t intend on remaining a 1/1 for long.

Of course, those sorts of approaches slot into decks that already exist, I want to try a different approach by repurposing an old favorite of mine: Yogg and Load.

I know what you are thinking: “Yogg doesn’t fit with Barnes, because you don’t get the battlecry effect.” And, you would be right! Which is why we need to change the focus of the deck a little bit, and turn it into a Malygos deck instead!

2 x Arcane Shot
2 x Hunter’s Mark
2 x On the Hunt
1 x Tracking
1 x Bear Trap
2 x Freezing Trap
2 x Lock and Load
2 x Quick Shot
1 x Snipe
2 x Animal Companion
2 x Deadly Shot
2 x Unleash the Houds
2 x Powershot
1 x Eaglehorn Bow
1 x Barnes
1 x Explosive Shot
1 x Emperor Thaurissan
2 x Call of the Wild
1 x Malygos

First of all, if you haven’t played Yogg and Load, then I recommend doing so, because the deck is a ton of fun, and quite powerful. While Yogg was incredibly powerful in that list, due to the deck’s 27 spells, the deck really was more of a Call of the Wild deck, as that was the card that won you most games. The above list trades Yogg for Malygos, which provides a very different type of win condition. The original Yogg and Load already ran 3 one-drop burn spells plus 2 Quick Shots, so adding one more Arcane Shot to bring the burn count up to 6 (all costing 2 or less) is easy enough, and should provide enough ammunition to make Malygos very dangerous.

You only have 3 minions in this list, so your Barnes is going to either be a Malygos or an Emperor Thaurissan. You could try removing Emperor to ensure that you hit Malygos every time, but I think Emperor is valuable enough to be worth keeping. He helps enable old school Malygos kills, big Lock and Load turns, and often you will draw either Malygos or Emperor anyways, so having a second additional minion ensures that Barnes’ ability still retains value (while also becoming more predictable, since you know exactly who he will copy).

One additional consideration is Gadgetzan Auctioneer, which certainly has a solid amount of synergy with the list as a whole, while being an awesome Barnes hit. The question on his inclusion is whether you want to dilute Barnes’ predictability. With only two Barnes targets, you know you are hitting Malygos or Emperor (or you know exactly who you are hitting if you draw one of them), but once you add Auctioneer you lose a bit of your ability to plan beyond Barnes’ random effect. It may be that Auctioneer ends up finding a slot in here, but for now, I think that Lock and Load fills that role well enough without diluting Barnes’ predictability.

Once again, any comments or suggestions on this list are much appreciated in the reddit discussion!

Wicked WitchdoctorWicked Witchdoctor
Verdict: Chaff

Master of Evolution only sees occasional play in Shaman. Fireguard Destroyer barely sees any play in Shaman. Witchdoctor has the misfortune of being in the same slot as Flamewreathed Faceless, and as Wicked as she might be, the doctor is no 7/7 for 4.

Moat LurkerMoat Lurker
Verdict: Casual Card

This is an effect which has been around for quite a while in Magic the Gathering. Cards that temporarily deal with an opposing minion are obviously not as powerful as true removal, so they have to cost less. Unfortunately, it appears that the Hearthstone developers just haven’t figured out where the casting cost sweet spot is for this effect yet. This guy has a relatively unique effect for Hearthstone, and can enable some fun combo turns by killing your own minions for profit (ie. Kill Sylvanas, take your dude, when my Lurker dies I get another Sylvanas). That having been said, from a competitive perspective this card is just too expensive, dies to a Lightning Bolt, and is awkward to use on opposing minions with any sort of strong deathrattle ability.

Arcane GiantArcane Giant
Verdict: Chaff for now

This card has drawn a fair amount of discussion, and there seems to be a divide between those that think it is viable and those that don’t. You can count me in the “not viable” column, at least until potential future cards get printed.

If you average 6 spells in your first 5 turns, then this guy comes out as an 8/8 for 6 on turn 6. That is a lot of effort for a guy who is not all that far above curve as a 6-drop, so if you want to be getting a steep discount on Arcane Giant you need to be putting in dedicated effort. I just don’t know that there is a competitive deck right now that can consistently do much better than that, while still wanting the vanilla 8/8 enough to put in that work. Maybe Yogg and Load could make the spell count work, but probably wouldn’t want to hurt the consistency of King Elekk’s draw effect to do so (ie. You would no longer be guaranteed Yogg or Emperor Thaurissan).

Also, if you are playing a deck with a super high spell count (and therefore low minion account) you probably want to be looking into Barnes synergies instead, and him and Arcane Giant are not friends.

That having been said, this could be a card that becomes viable after future set releases if either: A) More cheap cantrip spells are printed, or 2) another strong incentive card or two are released that want to be in the same deck as Arcane Giant.

Silvermoon PortalSilvermoon Portal
Verdict: Chaff

This card is more relevant for Ivory Knight triggers than it is on its own merit.

A random 2 cost minion is probably only worth about 1 mana, due to the lack of ability to predict the effect, while +2/+2 is worth about 1.5 mana (based on Mark of the Wild being 2 mana, and also giving taunt). So you are paying a pretty significant premium to have both of those effects under one roof, and I just can’t picture a competitive deck wanting to do that.

Oh, and don’t forget that “random 2-drop” will occasionally mean “blow yourself out by getting Doomsayer to kill the creature you just pumped”.

SwashburglerSwashburgler
Verdict: Role Player with Staple Potential

This guy has some very intriguing possibilities. The random aspect of the card is a bit unwieldy, and makes the card’s power level unpredictable, but it comes at a low enough cost that it certainly has constructed applications.
The use for him that is the most obvious is in an Ethereal Peddler deck, but I will take a look at the viability of that archetype next week, when I get to Peddler himself.

Independent of Peddler, Swashburglar actually has a fair amount of application in his own right. Being a one-drop makes him great at enabling Rogue’s combo cards, while also being an easy compliment to an early Brann Bronzebeard. Getting a 1/1 and two random class cards for only 1 mana is a pretty good deal. While South Sea Captain, Shady Dealer and Skycap’n Kragg are the only Pirate synergy cards available to Rogue, having a supported creature type also gives Swashburglar some additional potential down the road, if additional Pirate themed cards are printed.

Swashburglar provides a pretty decent amount of return for 1 mana, and has several potential applications. For now, I think it will likely remain a role player in fringe archetypes, because the body you get is rather unimpressive, but Swashburglar certainly has the potential to evolve into a staple if Ethereal Peddler ends up anchoring a competitive archetype, or if future cards enable additional synergies.

August 25th – The Menagerie

The CuratorThe Curator
Verdict: All Star

First of all, no this rating is not based on my view of the viability of this card next to Zoobot (which I will review next time). Zoobot’s limitation is the fact that it requires a certain set of minions to be on the actual battlefield in order to extract value. The Curator has no such limitation. Having minions of these three types somewhere in your deck is far easier to achieve.

The power level of this card is higher than pre-nerf Ancient of Lore (5/5 for 7, draw 2 cards or gain 5 life). A 4/6 with taunt is usually better than a 5/5 vanilla creature, and you have the potential to draw 3 cards with The Curator (while having some control over which cards you draw, through deck construction) vs. being able to draw 2 random cards with Ancient of Lore.

The Curator certainly doesn’t go into every deck, as it does come with some deckbuilding restrictions, but its power level is high enough that I expect it to see substantial play, and it will have a significant impact on the way that decks are constructed.

Even if you are only looking at neutral class cards, some commonly played minions in the relevant classes include:
Beast: Huge Toad
Stranglethorn Tiger
Stampeding Kodo
Murloc: Sir Finley Mrrgglton
Bilefin Hunter
Dragon: Faerie Dragon
Twilight Drake
Azure Drake
Draknoid Crusher
Chillmaw
Alexstrasza
Ysera
Etc. Etc…You get the point.

That isn’t even considering class cards like Mounted Raptor, Savage Combatant, Fierce Monkey, Murloc Knight, and most Hunter minions that exist.

The Murloc selection is obviously the weakest of the group (and I was a little surprised to see zero Murloc in the set, despite the presence of these menagerie themed cards), but if you are only drawing a Ysera and a Stampeding Kodo for the two mana premium you just paid for your 4/6 taunter, you are probably still relatively content with the deal.

The Curator is obviously not a card for aggro decks, but it will fit nicely into midrange lists, with Ramp Druid being a natural home, and seems absolutely made to be played in control decks. I could imagine seeing this guy in a Warrior list running two copies of Fierce Monkey, a couple Azure Drakes and a Ysera. I will be interested to see whether a deck like that tries running a random Corrupted Seer or Bilefin Hunter to try to eek out extra value, or whether they will just be satisfied with getting two additional cards. Control Paladin lists will also provide another home for The Curator. Stampeding Kodo is already a staple in those archetypes, while N’Zoth Paladin could easily adapt to using Chillmaw, and Murloc Paladin could easily add a couple of Azure Drakes.

Overall, The Curator seems like a card with a very high power level that I expect to make some waves in standard in the near future.

Avian WatcherAvian Watcher
Verdict: Chaff

A 4/7 taunt creature for 5 is slightly better than Druid of the Claw’s 4/6 for 5 (if you don’t take into account the option to use the charge half of the card), but having to have a Secret in play to make that happen is not nearly as interesting. You only get this on curve if your opponent doesn’t trigger whatever Secret you were relying on to enable the battlecry for at least one turn. Frankly, the purpose of having secrets down is to get value as soon as possible, not to have them hang around to trigger cards like this. If your opponent isn’t likely to trigger your secret for more than one turn, you are likely losing a lot of the value of that secret card. The trigger restriction seems too restrictive to me, and it just seems like you are getting a random 3/6 for 5 mana way too often, and that is not something that any constructed deck is looking for.

Cat TrickCat Trick
Verdict: Role Player

Essentially, the best case scenario on this is that you are getting a Jungle Panther for a one mana discount, which is pretty strong, for sure. The question is: how often do you get that best case scenario, and how often does this just sit there for several turns before your opponent plays a spell. In a metagame with a lot of spell based decks, I could certainly see this card having a place, but there are too many minion and weapon heavy decks out there on a regular basis, so I suspect this card will only see occasional play.

Babbling BookBabbling Book
Verdict: Chaff

A lot of people seem to think this card will be constructed worthy, but I just don’t see it. Tempo Mage was my first love in Hearthstone, and I just can’t see why people think this card fits in there (it certainly doesn’t fit into Freeze Mage). A 1/1 for 1 is not worth much in Heathstone. Paladin gets that for 2 mana without losing a card, and that is considered one of the worst hero powers out there. The kicker of getting a bonus random Mage spell is just too unpredictable to be enticing enough for you to want to play an otherwise random 1/1 for 1. Why not just play the Mage spell you wanted in that slot instead? You might get a third Frostbolt, I suppose, but you could also get a Shatter, with no freeze effects to accompany it, or a Pyroblast in a game that isn’t going to last more than 7 turns.

Unlike Swashburglar, which I reviewed above, Mage has no effects like Ethereal Peddler that have the potential to make Babbling Book better than it first appears. Book also has no relevant creature type, and is not in a Class where you always need ways to enable the Combo ability. All the reasons why Swashburglar is useful are lacking in Babbling Book, and even with all those advantages, I still only saw Swashburglar as a role player. I would be shocked to see Babbling Book show up in a single Legend ranked deck next month.

PurifyPurify
Verdict: All Star!!!

…just kidding, this card is just as bad as all the memes on Reddit would have you believe.

Conclusion and Sign Off

That is it for part 2 of my set review. I have 15 cards to go (the balance of the Menagerie wing, and the Spire wing), and I will address those card next Tuesday, as I bring my set review to its conclusion.

I am super excited for the Opera to go live this Thursday. I suspect that we will see our first big metagame shift once it goes live, largely due to Barnes and, to a lesser extent, Kindly Grandmother.

As usual, if you have any thoughts or questions feel free to join the conversation on reddit here, and if you are interested in being the first one to hear when my future articles are released then you can subscribe below. We do not sell any information of our subscribers, and we will only use the information to notify you about future articles.

One thought on “Kyle’s Deck of the Week: Karazhan Constructed Set Review – Part 2

  • I think babbling book is a lot better than most people are giving it credit for. The random nature of the spell does seem to be problematic at first, until you realize all the spell synergies that mage has which make essentially any spell useful. That doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that there are almost no bad mage spells, most of their spells are either damage based removal or secrets – even the least of which tend to find value – especially when played at a discount thanks to Sorcerer’s Apprentice or for free missles with Flamewaker. The worst spells are undoubtedly Flame Lance, Shatter and Spellbender (which in this meta can get a lot of value eating executes and siphon souls). Any other spell is a worthwhile draw, especially if that 1/1 you played forced your opponent to hero power on turn 2 while replacing itself and let you keep initiative

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