With about a week before Whispers of the Old Gods is released, let’s take a look back at some of the gems in The League of Explorers and see how they affected the meta and the Hearthstone experience in general.
We are going to be rich, boys! For life! I greatly underestimated the impact that Reno would have on the meta. I had believed that the drawback of not being able to run two copies of the best cards was a big downside. Yet in the control deck that Reno created, it doesn’t matter that I don’t have the consistency of two copies of any card because Reno just gave me more time and health to draw any singleton card. It also allows other classes like Rogue or Hunter to have a successful Control variant. While I am not saying those decks are very good, it was immense support for players that did want to play in that space. Renolock became the most competitive Reno deck due to Warlock’s Life Tap ability offsetting Reno’s inconsistency and then Reno would offset that health deficit. Perfect synergy. Renolock did end up pushing Handlock down as the top control deck for Warlocks. The prevalence of Reno decks also made full face decks less of a concern. Having a Reno in your opening hand almost guaranteed the win against face Hunter. So much that there is now healing BM. Games with Reno decks were also more fun and diverse since you saw a greater varied number of cards. Overall, Reno Jackson has done a lot of making Hearthstone a more diverse and fun game.
And it isn’t just Reno Jackson. Most of the other legendaries introduced were praised as cards with meaningful effects on deck building and/or interesting design. Sir Finley Mrrgglton challenged what a one mana legendary card can bring and took what seemed like a small change, your Hero Power, to something very impactful. It allowed you to change your Hero Power to fit the deck archetype you build; for example changing the Shaman’s more passive Hero power into something more fitting in the aggro Shaman decks. Brann Bronzebeard is a combo player’s fantasy as it doubles the battlecries for free. Its uses ranged from casual Mill decks to competitive value in Zoo. Elise Starseeker seems like a gimmicky card made for fun at first but it actually sees play in some Control Warrior and Mage decks. You got to finish opponents with style.
Anyfin Can Happen, Tunnel Trogg, Unearthed Raptor
There are many good cards that I could go into detail in, but these three cards stood out as being enablers for new archetypes. Murloc Paladin wasn’t a joke but an honestly powerful combo deck against both aggro and control decks. Priest, in particular, had a hard time winning when Paladin gets to resolve both copies for Anyfin Can Happen in their drawn out games. Shaman was often labeled as one of the weaker class, but when Tunnel Trogg was first released, aggro Shaman overran the ladder meta for months. Tunnel Trogg breathed new life into Shaman by giving them a fast, strong viable laddering deck. Amazing what just a simple 1 drop can do. Unearthed Raptor presented Rogue with minion based deck option, giving Rogue more design space than just being a spell based combo deck. I am so excited to see what will become of this deck when N’Zoth, the Corruptor is released in Whispers of the Old Gods.
Keeper of Uladam: The Terror that is Paladin Arena
Now for some criticism. It is time Blizzard start paying more attention in how rarity affects Arena. (Honestly, it doesn’t seem they care about rarity for anything other than Legendary at all). Keeper of Uldaman is a 4 cost minion with a sizable body, and an incredibly versatile battlecry that last permanently. Sounds like that is at least a Rare right, and maybe an epic? Nah, it is a common. A common! So that every Paladin arena deck can have at least one and maybe even four copies of this card and cram their arena decks full of value. There is a reason why there is such a disparity in between classes in Arena and a lot of that has to do with the quality of common cards. Arena is a very significant part of Hearthstone and I hope Blizzard works towards improving that experience in the next … well, next, next expansion. They already released Faceless Summoner as a common in Mage.
But to end on a positive note, Discover was an awesome new mechanic. I already wrote up an article about how it affects the game and such, but in summary, it maintained the random fun of Hearthstone while still rewarding player decision and knowledge. That is what makes Hearthstone, and frankly card games in general, fun. I want to see them do more with Discover and find some new design space that doesn’t always add a card to your hand, or maybe add new non-collectible cards like with Arch-Thief Rafaam.
The League of Explorers was a great set of playable and fun cards. And it wasn’t just the cards that were existing either. The first duel against Rafaam was a great surprise. And some boss fights were even created as special encounters rather than duels. Can’t wait to see what another new design comes out for Adventures. But for now, we got Whispers of the Gods to munch on.