Knights of the Frozen Throne, the latest hearthstone expansion, launches today. This set looks unlike any other set we’ve had in hearthstone. In many ways, it reminds me more of an MTG expansion (which makes sense as they’ve brought on an ex-MTG designer for this expansion). There are many large and interesting ideas, as well as more counter play options. For this list, I’ve chosen the 5 cards that stood out most to me while perusing spoiler lists. Each of these cards I think will add interesting decisions during gameplay and deckbuilding to Hearthstone. This list isn’t a ranking of how powerful I think these cards will be. But I do think each is strong enough to see some play, otherwise they wouldn’t be adding interesting decisions to the game.
Skelemancer is like a suped-up Kindly Grandmother. They are both overcosted minions that leave behind a larger body when they die. The key differences being that Skelemancer must die on your opponent’s turn, and the body it leaves behind is an absolute monster. Play it with Defender of Argus or Spikeridged Steed to force your opponent to deal with the small body. Another interesting use is to play it alongside your other minions to provide insurance against a board wipe. Skelemancer and the other on opponent’s turn deathrattles put your opponent into an awkward position. Making trades with these cards in play adds an additional layer to the usual board mathematics.
Druid secrets! Choosing a secret death rattle is a very clever way to use the druid’s signature mechanic while also adding more hidden information to the game. The problem with this card could be that what option you choose is going to be obvious based on board state. If your opponent has lots of minions you choose the damage, if you have lots of minions you choose the buff. Where it gets tricky is if both of you have large boards, either option could be viable.
But the supposed obviousness of its modes could work to your advantage in being tricky. For example, if you have a large board plus the Fatespinner, your opponent may think you have chosen the buff. This opponent may try to clear out the other minions first, then the fate spinner. Then when they kill the Fatespinner it turns out you chose damage mode, then their side of the board gets wiped too.
This card will at least create some interesting board states and cause your opponent to make some difficult decisions. What excites me most about it is the future design space that exists for more druid secret deathrattles.
Reno Jackson introduced the concept of cards that triggered effects based on cards left in your deck. Kazakus and other Cabal legendries continued that tradition in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. KotFT returns to the concept and finally moves away from the singleton decks of the older cards. Firstly, it appears in the princes cycle, who each gain additional benefits if cards of a certain casting cost are absent from your deck. The restriction is interesting, but the benefits don’t match the cost.
More likely to see play is the Corpsetaker, who gains specific keywords if creatures in your deck share those keywords. This is easy to do, although not trivial, and a huge upside. Corpsetaker is also not a legendary, so you can have 2 in your deck, a first for deck specific card effects.
I think there is a lot of unexplored design space in cards that care about the contents of your deck. Corpsetaker and the princes cycle show that Blizzard is continuing to try out new things in these mechanics.
2. Skulking Geist
The original version of Illidan Stormrage during Alpha had a battlecry that read “Both players discard 3 cards and draw 3 cards”. He was changed to his current form because blizzard didn’t want players to be able to force their opponent to discard cards. Blizzard created a few more disruption effects down the line, but they remained relatively weak and inconsistent. Because of this hesitance in the past I was very surprised to see this card. The older cards relied on chance and could potentially backfire. Skulking Geist’s drawback is that it also destroys your cards, but you can either play them out before playing the Geist, or just not put any 1 drops in your deck.
1. Uther of the Ebon Blade
Hero cards in and of themselves aren’t anything too crazy, we’ve had Jaraxxus since launch. Really what they are is a bunch of different spell effects stapled together. I think they were made their own card type just to prevent Mana Bind or Shadow Visions shenanigans.
While they may not be inherently interesting mechanically, some of them introduce some interesting ideas. Valeera the Hollow has a passive hero power which gives her a permanent card in hand that copies her last played card. Deathstalker Rexxar gets the wacky build-a-beast power that will fuse together two different beasts into a single card. But most exciting to me is Uther of the Ebon Blade, and his Four Horsemen hero power. Each time its clicked it summons a random horseman, a bit like the shaman power. If all four unique horseman are in play it automatically kills the opposing hero.
Now Hearthstone has its Exodia. I’ve always like alternate win conditions in card games, although I almost never play them. They always have such cool flavor, like summoning using a ouija board to predict your opponents death, opening a forbidden portal, or summoning the apocalypse. The flavor and effort it takes to win with them makes it much more satisfying than a normal victory.
Thanks for checking out my list, let me know in the comments what cards you are excited about in Knights of the Frozen Throne.