The Year of the Raven is finally here and there will be a lot of changes with cards rotating out. Three of the sets in Standard will be removed from rotation alongside a small selection of cards from the basic set. This is done to keep the game fresh, and the few cards from the basic set chosen were deemed too meta-defining or design space-inhibiting. So, how are things going to change?
Whispers of the Old Gods
The gimmick in Whispers of the Old Gods was, well, the Old Gods themselves. C’Thun, Yogg-Saron, Y’Shaarj, and N’Zoth are all leaving Standard as of the Year change. How impactful is this? Not particularly. Only N’Zoth and Y’Shaarj ever see play anymore, and both are in rather fun decks. Y’Shaarj tried to make a comeback earlier in some of the Big Priest decks but it didn’t last.
Apart from the disappearance of the Old Gods, the class hit the hardest by this set rotation is Druid. While other classes lose a card here and there, Druid loses Mire Keeper, Feral Rage, Fandral Staghelm, and Mark of Y’Shaarj. This is a huge blow to every style of Druid, with all of the viable decks losing at least one major card.
One Night in Karazhan
One Night in Karazhan was one of the last adventures in Hearthstone and, as such, was much smaller than the other expansions. Still, there are a few big-name cards lost. Losing Barnes will put a huge dent in revival-style decks such as the currently popular Big Priest. Mages lose Firelands Portal, Medivh’s Valet and Babbling Book, all cards that have seen quite a bit of play. Druid once again loses Enchanted Raven, a small hit to aggressive variants. And, finally, we’ll see a time when not every Shaman deck has Maelstrom Portal.
Mean Streets of Gadgetzan
Mean Streets of Gadgetzan is probably the most influential loss to Standard. From that set we lose Patches, Finja, Jade in its entirety, Kun the Forgotten King, Raza the Chained, and Shaku. And that’s just the legendaries! We also lose Drakonid Operative and Dragonfire Potion, Mark of the Lotus, Counterfeit Coin, Jade Claws deserves a second mention, Abyssal Enforcer, and many others.
Losing Mean Streets kills Pirates and Jade as archetypes in their entirety. Murloc decks also become much harder to form. It makes Shaman, Rogue and Priest decks much worse across the board. Hell, even Hunter loses most of the cards in its mid-range variant. Doppelgangster is gone, killing Evolve Shaman. Dirty Rat leaves many control decks far worse off. Losing Kazakus kills the Highlander decks once and for all.
The loss of Mean Streets alone will reinvent the meta entirely. If it were to be removed now, Warlock is the only tier one class that wouldn’t be decimated. This won’t be an expansion where nothing changes; everything is going to be shaken up on a massive scale.
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The Basics – Coldlight Oracle
Which brings us to the three cards they have decided to remove from the basic set and send to Wild. First off is Coldlight Oracle. Currently, Coldlight Oracle presents itself as one of the very few ways to ‘mill’ your opponent in Hearthstone. Milling is when you remove every card in their deck, forcing them to die to fatigue. Mill Rogue is one of the decks that has survived forever, never being particularly viable but always fun. Now, Dead Man’s Hand Warrior has come on to the scene using very similar mechanics to mill their opponent’s deck away.
Apparently milling isn’t something that Blizzard wants in their game. Which is fair- they’ve always taken a stance that they don’t want players to mess with their opponent’s hands, since it isn’t something that feels good. It also represents design issues, seen very clearly with the Dead Man’s Hand deck. Obviously that wasn’t an intended deck, as it forces games to take literally forever.
I do mean literally, because if you go for more than 50 turns the game ends in a draw. The Dead Man’s Hand deck forced Blizzard to put out a rule that if two of them faced each other, the one with more armor at turn 50 wins. It happened in a tournament in Asia not long after the rule went into play. That sort of gameplay just isn’t enjoyable to experience from a player or viewer standpoint. From that stance, losing Coldlight makes perfect sense.
Molten Giant is a bit surprising. I’m fairly sure they decided to rotate him to Wild just so they could revert his nerf from a few months back. That’s right, he’s going back to 20 mana rather than 25. When they changed him, there was a massive outcry from players who enjoyed playing him in gimmicky decks in Wild. There were quite a few people asking for exactly this – rotate him to Wild but leave his mana alone. I’m fairly sure that’s why they chose to do this, since he has no place in the current meta and doesn’t pose any major design issues that I can see in his current form.
We saved the best for last. Ice Block is moving to Wild. This is a massive nerf to all Control and Secret Mage decks. Ice Block has long been the only Secret that people typically wanted to draw. Many decks that have Secrets have two Ice Blocks and only a smattering of other Secrets. Losing this will be catastrophic to those types of decks, particularly Freeze Mage.
On the other hand, Ice Block is not fun to play around. You can’t feasibly play the anti-secret cards in your deck because they only matter in that specific match-up. But, if you don’t have them, most control decks auto-lose to Freeze Mage. It’s a very binary deck where you either win or lose based more on the match-up than the game. Losing it, and Ice Block entirely, is definitely moving towards a more “feel good” space for players. Seeing your opponent play two Ice Blocks in a row and knowing there is nothing you can do just sucks. Losing it isn’t surprising in the least.