I have been having a blast playing with the first couple of wings of Karazhan, in particular with the Opera cards (I think I have about 5 Barnes decks active right now). I hope everyone else is having as much fun at the party. If you missed Parts 1 or 2 of my set review, you can catch up here and here.
In last week’s article I left off about halfway through the Menagerie wing, which will be released this coming Thursday. Today, I will finish reviewing the cards from that wing, and will get through the final wing, The Spire, which will be released next Thursday. A couple of cards in The Spire wing, Malchezaar’s Imp and Prince Malchezaar, were already reviewed in Part 1, since that article was written before we had the full release schedule. I will skip those cards today, and you guys can check them out in week 1’s article, if you are interested (I include my Discard Warlock list featuring Malchezaar’s Imp there).
With that said, let’s recap the classification system and get into another set of Karazhan cards!
As I mentioned previously, 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 25th – The Menagerie cont.
Verdict: Build Around
3/3 for 3 is a decent stat line, but isn’t good enough to see play by itself, so you need to be getting value out of the battlecry effect for it to be worthwhile. If you only get one buff effect out of it, then you essentially have a Shattered Sun Cleric with one additional toughness, which isn’t bad, but isn’t setting the world on fire, either. If you are getting two or three buffs off of Zoobot, then you are cooking with gas! So, the question really becomes: what sort of deck is going to have Beasts, Dragons and Murlocs all under one roof? It seems like a random collection of creatures, and I don’t know that the deckbuilding limitations it presents will be worth the cost of running Zoobot, but the card could certainly see play if such a deck ends up existing.
That having been said, Zoobot (and the Curator, which I reviewed last week) are not the only incentives in the set for building such a deck, so, maybe I should reserve judgement until looking at…
Verdict: Build Around
So, basically, this is just a bigger version of Zoobot, but with the additional redundancy, we are starting to see a much better incentive for running a Managerie Deck. Once again, if you get only one buff out of Menagerie Magician you are doing ok (6/6 of stats for 5 mana), but aren’t impressing anyone too much. If you get two or three buffs out of it, though, you are getting a whole lot of value.
So, Blizzard clearly wants us to try a Menagerie Deck, but since the payoff cards are neutral we have some options as to which class to use. Both Magician and Zoobot ideally want to find Beasts, Dragons and Murlocs on the table by the time they come down to provide their buffs. As such, we want a class that has access to some good early minions in those types.
Murlocs have lots of cheap creatures, but not all that many of them are strong in their own right, and we don’t want to rely too much on Murloc specific synergy, since we won’t have as much room to do so, since we need to fit Dragons and Beasts in, too. Paladin provides the best Murloc options, due to the presence of Vilefin Inquisitor and Murloc Knight, while the rest of the relevant Murlocs are all neutral.
For Beasts, Druid and Hunter have the best options, but there are some decent early-drop neutral beasts, too, such as Huge Toad, Dire Wolf Alpha, and some strong later game beasts with Stampeding Kodo and Stranglethorn Tiger.
Dragons are the biggest limitation when it comes to early drops. Faerie Dragon is the only neutral early drop worth playing, while Priest gets Dragon Whelp, for an added option. While you have lots of late game Dragons available to every class, you aren’t going to wait to drop your Zoobot until after you have your Ysera down.
With all that said, Blizzard has helped to show us the way, once again, as one more Karazhan card seems to put the Paladin class into the lead for best Menagerie Deck class…
Verdict: Build Around
4/5 in stats over 3 creatures for 3 mana is a very good deal. Paladin hasn’t typically been the best class for Dragon decks, but does have Dragon Consort as a strong additional incentive. I am not sure whether Paladin is the best option for a full Dragon deck. After all, Nightbane Templar is strong, but it is not Alexstrasza’s Champion, and the Paladin class is definitely not the Warrior class. That having been said, if a Dragon Paladin deck does exist, this card will be one of the main reasons why.
Now, getting back to our Menagerie Deck discussion above, this card also does something relatively unique, in that it produces Dragon tokens in the early game. Along with Faerie Dragon and Priest’s Dragon Whelp (and Dragon’s Egg, if you want to get technical), this is the only card in the game that can reliably get a dragon on the table at 3 mana or less.
Coupling Nightbane Templar with Paladin’s Murloc options, I suspect that if a Menagerie Deck becomes viable, it will probably do so in the Paladin class. Here is a first draft at what such a deck might look like:
2 x Vilefin Inquisitor
1 x Sir Finley Mrrgglton
2 x Bilefin Tidehunter
2 x Huge Toad
2 x Faerie Dragon
2 x Dire Wolf Alpha
2 x Zoobot
2 x Nightbane Templar
2 x Murloc Warleader
2 x Murloc Knight
2 x Twilight Guardian
2 x Truesilver Champion
1 x Dragon Consort
1 x Stranglethorn Tiger
2 x Menagerie Magician
2 x Draknoid Crusher
1 x The Curator
As you can see, this is a tough deck to build because it is being pulled in so many different directions. Do you focus heavier on the Dragon synergies to get Blackwing Corruptor in there? It is tough, since you already have Menagerie Magician in that spot. Beasts will be your least used creature type, if you are in Paladin, but how many do you have room for, to attempt to make your Menagerie cards optimal? How much Murloc synergy do you have room for? Is it enough for Murloc Warleader? Can you find room for Paladin staples like Truesilver Champion or Aldor Peacekeeper?
Ultimately, I have gone with an early Murloc charge, supplemented with beasts and Menagerie cards, with a dragon finish. The deck has 7 dragons (which is a bit below the 9 that Dragon Warrior usually plays) with 9 Murlocs and 5 Beasts. These numbers will undoubtedly change in testing, but this seems like a good place to start.
Verdict: Staple with All Star potential
You have to have a beast on the board to get either ability, but for one extra mana Menagerie Warden gives you +2/+2 on the initial body, and gives you control on what beast you are getting (anyone who has ever gotten a Captain’s Parrot out of a Ram Wrangler knows what I’m talking about here).
The early Beast Druid lists I have seen with Enchanted Raven get on the board very quickly, but have trouble sustaining pressure into the mid and late game. Menagerie Warden fits a slot that the deck really had been lacking up until now. The deck had plenty of options in the 5 drop slot, not the least of which being Druid of the Claw (which is a beast on either side). Menagerie Warden is a pretty strong follow up to Druid of the Claw, while Stranglethorn Tiger presents another pretty impressive potential cloning target. Here is where I will likely start with the list:
2 Enchanted Raven
1 Living Roots
1 Raven Idol
2 Druid of the Saber
2 Mark of Y’Shaarj
2 Power of the Wild
1 Mounted Raptor
2 Druid of the Flame
1 Feral Rage
1 Savage Roar
1 Fandral Staghelm
2 Savage Combatant
2 Druid of the Claw
2 Stranglethorn Tiger
2 Menagerie Warden
I was a little split on whether Druid of the Claw or Mounted Raptor is the better card, but I have gone with the 2/1 split in favour of Druid, for now. Similarly, I have gone with Savage Roar, but without token producers like Violet Teacher, I am not entirely sure that it will end up being good enough. That having been said, with Charge cards like Druid of the Saber and Druid of the Claw, I figure that it should be good enough at providing some surprise burst kills.
Even though it is not a beast, I could also see Temporal Anomaly seeing play in here, potentially as a one-of to provide a third one-drop, as this deck really likes hitting its one drop and getting the initiative. There are a good number of early spells in the deck, and arguably the correct build could have even more (if Living Roots and Raven Idol end up as 2-ofs). You have plenty of beasts to bear Y’Shaarj’s mark, and you probably aren’t copying your one-drop with Menagerie Warden anyways, so I don’t think that the lack of the beast sub-type should invalidate Anomaly from consideration.
Whether it is this list, or something similar to it, I have no doubt that Beast Druid will be viable as soon as Menagerie Warden is out (and arguably it already is viable even before that). With Warden giving the deck some staying power, and Enchanted Raven powering the early game, I have no doubt that Beast Druid will end up near the top of the tier list. It feels like a tier 2 list to me, but could end up making it into tier 1 if the right metagame emerges for it.
Also, interesting to note, for those interested in the Pauper format (note: for those who don’t play the format, Pauper uses only common and basic cards), the above list has only two rares (the Savage Combatants) and one Legendary (Fandral), so it would be very easy to turn this deck into a true Pauper deck. Of course, it also makes it a really easy deck for beginners to piece together, without needing much of a card pool.
P.S. Anyone who thought that Blizzard didn’t love Druid after the nerfs earlier this year should really be eating crow (raven?) right now. Druid, in my humble opinion, is probably the most powerful and entertaining class at the moment, and with Beast Druid, Token Druid and Ramp Druid (the version with fatties like Y’Shaarj), you already have 3 viable archetypes, while at least two of those archetypes have significant room for innovation (Beast Druid is a bit more linear than the other two in that regard). I have to admit, you likely would not have nearly this healthy a Druid class if the nerfs hadn’t happened, since it would be really tough to justify running big fatties like Y’Shaarj when you could just combo your opponent out with Force of Nature and Savage Roar instead.
Verdict: Role Player
Well, I guess they found a way to solve Warrior’s Arena woes!
In constructed, however, Warrior already has Arcanite Reaper in the same slot, which only sees play in Pirate Aggro lists, and Fool’s Bane is certainly not a clear upgrade over Reaper. The inability to go to the face makes it a difficult fit for aggro decks, but its fit in control decks is also questionable because Brawl also falls in the 5 drop slot, and seems to do Fool’s Bane’s job in a less painful manner. That having been said, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the interaction between this card and a certain neutral 3-drop coming out a week later…
September 1st – The Spire
Verdict: Role Player
While Violet Illusionist is a neutral card, it really belongs collectively to the weapons classes. The Illusionist’s ability allows your Hunters, Warriors, Shamans and Rogues (yes, presumably Druids, too) to attack into opposing minions with impunity. That having been said, Illusionist also has some interesting applications in Warlock, protecting you from the damage of Life Taps and Flame Imps. Maybe this card could even give Spawn of Shadows its time to shine.
This card has enough applications that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up from time to time, but at the moment I don’t see a competitive home for it. One big exception is that if Fool’s Bane finds a home in a top tier constructed deck, I would not be surprised at all to see Violet Illusionist as its roommate. The ability to distribute 12 damage to your opponent’s minions, in 3 damage chunks directed in the manner of your choosing, for the low cost of 5 mana is a constructed worthy effect; however, it remains to be seen whether that potential combo is enough to justify displacing one of the other very constructed worthy strategies that Warrior already has.
Verdict: Build Around
I really enjoyed running a version of Tempo Mage last fall with a secret side-theme which featured Kirin Tor Mage along with Mad Scientist. The deck was really strong, but with the loss of Mad Scientist, there just wasn’t enough incentive to run secrets anymore. Mage’s secrets just didn’t seem strong enough at 3 mana to want to hard cast them on a consistent basis, which is why secrets like Mirror Image have disappeared from competitive play since the loss of Mad Scientist. Medivh’s Valet might be enough to bring a secret-focussed Tempo Mage deck back into competitive viability. If it isn’t, then it might be enough in the fall if Mage gets another strong secret or two. There is no question in my mind that a 2/3 for 2 that gives you a free Lightning Bolt is a very good payoff for playing secrets. I just don’t know whether there are a strong enough set of secrets in Mage to make it competitively viable at the moment in the Tempo Mage Archetype.
The one awkward thing about this card is that all of Mage’s secrets cost 3, meaning that you are never playing this guy on turn 2 and getting the bonus. This makes it a bit of an awkward design. That having been said, Mage is a class that likes playing multiple two drops on turn 4, so this plus Frostbolt on turn 4 would look pretty solid.
Also, quick note, this card will be ridiculous in Wild Tempo Mage, where Mad Scientist is still around.
Of course, aside from Tempo Mage, the other major Mage archetype of Freeze Mage, which is a deck that does currently run secrets (usually Ice Block, and usually Ice Barrier). Medivh’s Valet should slot nicely into Freeze Mage, as a method of removing troublesome opposing minions, while also providing a bit of a road bump with the 2/3 body. Freeze Mage very often has at least one secret (Ice Block) sitting in play, so you likely wouldn’t need to change anything in terms of the secret count in order to make Valet viable therein.
In a bit more of an out-of-the-box approach, I found an interesting list a while back which used Kirin Tor Mage in a Freeze Mage shell to avoid giving up too much tempo while dropping your secrets. The deck had potential, but wasn’t quite good enough. Medivh’s Valet is a card that could make that a viable build of Freeze Mage in the coming weeks.
Verdict: Build Around
While I like the card itself, something needs to be said about the awkward card design. I get that neither Mage nor Druid is a weapon class, but putting this card into a class with precisely zero Spell Damage cards printed in it seems pretty silly (no, I don’t count the awkwardly named Wrath of Air Totem that occasionally comes out of Shaman’s hero power).
Honestly, I think they should have made an exception to the normal weapon classes and made this a Mage card, naming it Magus’ Staff or something like that. This card would be a perfect design for a Mage weapon, if they allowed Mage to have such a thing, and having a set themed around a famous Mage like Medivh would have made it a reasonable time to make an exception and give Mage a weapon. Ironically, despite not doing so with this card, Blizzard did, in fact, essentially give Mage a weapon, anyways, with Medivh himself being a neutral card that grants a weapon to its owner, but we will discuss him more below.
As for the playability of this card, there is absolutely zero question that this card is competitively viable, from a power standpoint. With Spell Damage, this thing is better than Fiery Win Axe for half the cost! What makes it awkward is that you have a one in four chance of hitting a Wrath of Air Totem out of your hero power to turn it on. Beyond that, you have Bloodmage Thalnos and Azure Drake as pretty much the only worthwhile Spell Damage cards available to Shaman (unless you are willing to wait until turn 9 for Malygos). Don’t ask me why they didn’t at least print a Spell Damage card for Shaman in Karazhan so that this card would make sense for the class, because that would just start me ranting again.
Ultimately, the power level is here, and this card is worth building around, but I’m not sure if there are enough cards available to Shaman for this to be viable. That having been said, a weapon this powerful could be worth playing mediocre stuff like Kobold Geomancer to make it work. The additional spell damage might even make you start looking differently at cards like Maelstrom Portal. Looking into the future, there is also a significant chance that this card just becomes incredible in the fall if Blizzard prints a card like Cult Sorcerer for Shaman in the fall expansion.
Verdict: Role Player
This is a bit bigger than a Museum Curator, and finding a Dragon is probably as powerful, or more powerful, than finding a deathrattle minion, in most games. The disadvantage of needing to have a Dragon in hand obviously limits its usefulness to only dedicated Dragon decks, but it seems pretty reasonable in those types of decks. This isn’t Alexstrasza’s Champion, and it also isn’t a Dragon itself, like Faerie Dragon, so it probably doesn’t slot into Dragon Warrior, at least in its current form, but this would be a pretty reasonable option in a Paladin Dragon deck, alongside Nightbane Templar, or could potentially see play in Dragon Priest if that deck resurfaces at some point.
Verdict: Role Player
This card is in a weird place. First of all, the comparison between this card and Stampeding Kodo, which is an established player in Standard, is pretty favourable. For one extra mana, you get an extra point of health and the ability to kill 3 attack minions, as opposed to 2 attack minions. It is important to note that the jump to killing 3 attack minions is a very big one. All of a sudden you can kill game changing minions like Twilight Guardians, Violet Teachers and Thunder Buff Valiant.
Despite the favourable comparison with Kodo, however, the Dragon clause is a big negative, limiting the number of decks that can play it, and making it harder to use in those decks that can. That having been said, like Twilight Guardian, this card will definitely benefit from being a Dragon itself. It is much easier to fit in a Dragon-payoff card like this into a deck when it can also trigger your other payoff cards.
This card has tough competition from Draknoid Crusher in aggressive Dragon lists like Dragon Warrior, so it will likely only see occasional play there is a build wants a 3rd 6-drop. I think that the more likely home, however, is in a more control oriented list like Dragon Priest, which hasn’t traditionally played Draknoid Crusher (as it often doesn’t have the opponent down to 15 life by turn 6).
Well at least Warrior still has a lot of good cards from previous sets, because it certainly didn’t get much love in Karazhan. This card is utter garbage and will see no play. Warrior did not get where it is today by playing cards like this. Four armor is just not enough of a bonus to entice anyone into paying 5 mana for a random 4-drop.
Verdict: Role Player, with staple potential
Take a look at this card and compare it directly to its Warrior counterpart I just talked about. So, for one extra mana you get a random 6-cost minion, instead of a random 4-cost minion, plus you get to restore 6 health (which can be either to yourself or a minion) instead of just getting 4 armor.
Now, the comparison to Ironforge Portal really helps to illustrate why Ironforge Portal is garbage, as opposed to why Moonglade Portal is good, so let’s look at the value this card provides on its own merit. A random 6-cost minion is probably worth about 5 mana, while restoring 6 health has got to be worth at least 2 mana (particularly if it doesn’t cost you an additional card), so this card definitely provides enough value for the money. A lot of people underestimated Ivory Knight, because they underestimated how important life gain can be to make an expensive card viable. Sometimes, you just can’t drop Sylvanas, because your life is too low, but you can drop Ivory Knight or Moonglade Portal because they give you that little bit of extra breathing room that ensures you will survive until your next turn.
Beyond that, this card is also a spell, which makes it even more valuable. Yogg is a standard inclusion in Token Druid decks nowadays, but I am more interested in the applications with newer card. Moonglade Portal seems very much designed to be played next to Medivh, the Guardian, but we will talk a bit more about him in a minute…
Verdict: Build Around
Before, I get to the signature card of the set, however, there is one more interesting card to get to. Ethereal Peddler has a really interesting ability. I have learned from Magic the Gathering: never underestimate cards that let you cheat on mana! That having been said, while Peddler definitely helps make your cards much cheaper, you can’t predict which cards you are making cheaper, as it only effects random ones you get off cards like Undercity Huckster, Burgle and Swashburglar. As such, this is a tough effect to evaluate.
Overall, Ethereal Peddler itself is certainly powerful enough to be constructed playable. The ability has the potential to be very strong, and you aren’t paying much for it (since a 5/6 for 5 doesn’t need much more to be constructed worthy). The question for Peddler will be: is his ability strong enough to build a competitive deck around. I suspect that the random nature of any deck built around Peddler’s ability will probably render it inconsistent enough that it will end up as a fringe archetype. That having been said, I will definitely give the deck a try, since I know better than to underestimate the sort of effect that Peddler brings to bear.
Medivh, the Guardian
Medivh has some serious constructed chops, and I have no doubt he will see a ton of play, but his 8 mana casting cost holds him back from being an All Star. Medivh isn’t taking over the game until at least a turn or so after he is cast, since you need some mana to play a big spell to get his Greatstaff working. As such, many games will be over before Medivh gets to have an influence. On the other side, Medivh is a tough guy for an opponent to deal with, since he requires two very different answers: one for a 7/7 body and one for his Greatstaff. This makes him well suited to late game attrition battles, since a failure to answer either side of Medivh can very quickly cause the game to end.
I suspect that Medivh’s use will be largely limited to control decks and ramp decks, with the potential for him to also see some play in the more midrangy Tempo Mage variants. Control can extend the game long enough to allow Medivh to have time to make an impact, while a ramp deck like Druid can get Medivh the time he needs by dropping him a couple of turns early. Of course, you also need to have some big spells to be wanting to have Medivh in your deck, but most control and ramp decks can handle this easily enough. Druid can drop Medivh alongside big spells like Nourish and Moonglade Portal. Paladin can play Medivh next to Lay on Hands or get really greedy and play it next to Anyfin can Happen. Freeze Mage may also adopt Medivh, which looks pretty ridiculous next to Firelands Portal and Flamestrike. Midrangy Tempo Mage lists could also use Medivh as a late game finisher, much like Archmage Antonidas has been used in the past. Medivh could even help solidify Priest’s late game against other control decks, by turning cards like Entomb and Mind Control into pretty ridiculous swing cards.
Medivh has a lot of uses, and is a big, swingy, fun card to build decks around. I don’t know that he will swing the metagame a whole lot, just because there are already some big, swingy 8-drops that excel at making opposing insects die, but I have no doubt we will see Medivh swinging several late game battles in the months to come.
Summary and Sign Off
And, I made it. All of Karazhan reviewed in 3 bite-sized pieces. If you have any thoughts on my ratings or decklists do not hesitate to share them on the reddit thread here, and upvotes are always appreciated.
Next Tuesday, I will be back to my normal article format with a new, powerful, off-the-radar deck that will likely feature at least one of the cards I have been reviewing over these past few weeks (ok, who are we kidding, it will probably be a Barnes deck).
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Until next Tuesday…