With their most recent set, The Grand Tournament, Blizzard released a new Hearthstone mechanic: Inspire. Inspire is a mechanic that does something when you use your hero power. As soon as inspire was announced concerns began to circle about the mechanic simply being too slow for the current meta, one that is plagued by aggressive decks. Now, a month and a half after the set was released, how has inspire fared?
Of the twenty cards with the keyword Inspire included on them, two are played consistently in their classes (Murloc Knight and Thunder Bluff Valiant), and three more are used fairly often (Savage Combatant, Confessor Paletress, and Nexus Champion Saraad). Note that Wilfred Fizzlebang does not say Inspire on it, but I will still class it as an Inspire card, as it follows the mechanic fairly accurately. So five out of the twenty-one are seeing competitive play, which is just under one quarter of the released group.
A twenty-four percent play rate doesn’t sound high, but it’s actually fairly reasonable, considering that if every card from the group was extremely powerful, they would overshadow previous sets. The goal is to make reasonable cards and see if they can fit into decks, and a 24% success rate is actually fairly reasonable, considering how difficult it is for new cards to break into decks that have been so refined already. One thing that must be remembered when discussing how strong each card is, is that we cannot judge them based on their own merits, but rather based on other cards that would fill the slot in the deck in their place. Considering this, the fact that five of these cards were good enough to be put into decks instead of any other cards in that slot is far more reasonable than a 24% play rate would suggest.
The other thing to consider is all the cards that synergize with the Inspire mechanic. Cards such as Garrison Commander, which allows the player to use their hero power twice in a turn, or Maiden of the Lake, which makes the hero power only cost one mana. It is difficult to define precisely what to call a synergy, but for the purposes here I will say anything that works with you using your hero power many times or makes your hero power better will count as a synergy. Unfortunately, the only card that synergizes with Inspire which is actually seeing a large amount of play is Justicar Trueheart. There are a couple seeing fringe play in lower tier decks (such as Frost Giants in Echo Mage or Coldara Drake in Majordomo Mage), but for the most part all of the synergistic cards have completely flopped.
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So what does this mean for the Inspire mechanic itself? Well if the Inspire cards are being played, but not in conjunction with any synergies, it simply means that the five Inspire cards and Justicar Trueheart are all good based on their own value, not revolving around the Inspire mechanic as a whole. In fact, several of the decks that play Justicar Trueheart do not contain the word Inspire anywhere in the deck.
From the synergies Blizzard released, it was clear that the goal was to create at least one competitive Inspire deck, and from that standpoint, they failed miserably. None of the cards are strong enough to run an entire deck around, and there aren’t enough synergies to get around the fact that the deck is simply too slow to compete.
Does this mean that Inspire as a mechanic is a failure? Not just yet, there’s one key aspect missing. Arena. Inspire cards are largely not strong enough to compete because the assumption is that in any competitive setting, the Inspire will only be allowed to go off once before the card is destroyed, so the card’s value is considered based on a single Inspire activation. In arena, where removal is far less common, a card may be able to get multiple activations. This makes these cards infinitely stronger, and suddenly Inspire is not only successful, it’s a dominant mechanic. Cards like Kodorider can singlehandedly end a game if the other player cannot deal with it within a turn or two. Inspire may not have broken into the competitive scene, but they have made their debut in arena in a big way.
Another thing that must be remembered is that Blizzard often releases a bunch of cards that synergize together, but can’t quite form a proper deck, then see what is missing and add it in a later expansion. This was seen with the Dragons released in Blackrock Mountain, made much stronger by the Dragons released in The Grand Tournament. It is quite possible that in a future expansion Blizzard will release just the right cards that make the Inspire deck a top tier competitive deck.
Looking at the Inspire mechanic as of The Grand Tournament shows a disappointment on the competitive scene, but it is by no means a failure, as many of the cards are strong enough to be playable on their own, and their potential is seen in full in the Arena. Hopefully in the future Blizzard releases more cards that synergize, and Inspire decks will gain the tools they need to create a competitive top tier deck.