The next Hearthstone adventure (One Night In Karazhan) arrives on August 11th and, like any Hearthstone expansion, it already has fans everywhere endlessly debating which new cards will dominate the game, and which new cards may join the recently revealed Purify and prove to be so bad that the game must be altered in order to compensate for their complete lack of viability.
What tends to get overlooked in these discussions, however, is how the influx of these cards will impact Hearthstone‘s Wild format. Ever since Blizzard split Hearthstone into Standard and Wild modes earlier this year, the latter has been treated as something of a curiosity. Wild, just as the name implies, is a format where anything goes because it is the only mode that allows Hearthstone players to use every card in the game to build their decks.
Because of this, Wild tends to operate a little differently. By stepping into Wild mode, you are essentially agreeing to waive your right to complain about the effect new cards may have as Blizzard does not typically design new cards with Wild’s balance in mind.
The result of this approach is that every new batch of cards tends to include at least one that is completely overpowered in Wild. With One Night In Karazhan, Hearthstone is set to receive five cards that may fit that billing.
There was much rejoicing in the Hearthstone community when Blizzard announced that the game’s Standard format would no longer allow for Mad Scientist to be played. While this infamous card is, perhaps, not broken, it has long been a great source of frustration due to the way it eliminates many of the consequences that should come from playing Secrets during quicker tempo matches.
Wild players are about to receive a stark reminder of how Mad Scientist’s considerable ability hindered the exploration of Secret-based effects in Hearthstone once Medivh’s Valet hits. The current problem with Medivh’s Valet in Standard is that you must invest a turn in playing a secret before you can get full value out of its powerful Battlecry effect. With Mad Scientist in tow, however, certain mage decks will be able to take advantage of an unbeatable series of early plays thanks to the Scientist’s ability to put a Secret in play at no additional cost.
Arcane Giant is primed to be one of the strongest new Hearthstone cards regardless of format. Not since the pre-nerfed Molten Giant have one of these giant cards fit so easily into the natural play style of a few powerful decks. There’s always the risk involved that you’ll draw this card too early to take advantage of its cost reduction, but the upside certainly outweighs the downside even in Standard.
In Wild, however, this card is especially frightening. While a part of that has to do with the fact that there are more spells in Wild to play with, what makes a Wild Arcane Giant something to fear is how it will improve the game’s Echo Mage deck. This deck design, which relies on a large number of spells and a few big minions, was always teetering on the edge of being top-tier, but Arcane Giant might just push it into broken territory. So long as someone that plays this deck isn’t cursed with the worst card draw ever, they’ll be able to fill their side of the board with an assembly line of these monsters.
Blizzard has chosen an interesting thematic path for the future of Hearthstone’s Hunter class. Based on prominent cards introduced in the last couple of expansions, it appears they are trying to turn Hunters into the game’s premiere Deathrattle class. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, necessarily, but the timing of it is a bit strange given that Blizzard removed most of the most powerful Deathrattle cards from Standard and have shied away from creating the same quality of Deathrattle minions that they have in the past.
Kindly Grandmother is the latest addition to the Hunter Deathrattle arsenal and, while it should be great in Standard, this card is much more devastating in Wild. At their best, Deathrattle decks are able to overwhelm the opponent by reducing the effectiveness of their board clear options and forcing them to make ineffective trades. Much like Nerubian Egg, what makes Kindly Grandmother frightening is that the card becomes even more powerful when it’s initial incarnation is removed. Combine that ability with other devastating Deathrattle cards removed from Standard such as Piloted Shredder and Mad Scientist, and you’ve got a Deathrattle Hunter that is going to have a lot of Wild players coming up short on answers.
Pro Hearthstone players are a bit torn on Barnes at the moment. He’s pretty good in his own right, but to really feel like you’re getting your money’s worth from the card, you need him to pull something particularly devastating from your deck. Actually, more than something devastating, you need him to pull a card that will either allow you to cheat out certain combos or will not suffer from their reduced stat line thanks to an on-board effect or powerful Deathrattle ability.
That last example is what makes Barnes perhaps the most powerful new addition to Wild since Blizzard split the formats. Much like how Kindly Grandmother only grows stronger from being paired with other Deathrattle cards, Wild players are going to have the opportunity to almost guarantee they get a good pull from this card so long as they include enough Deathrattle minions in their deck. While Barnes might not always pull something potentially game ending in Wild, the fact that players will be able to add cards like Piloted Shredder, Nerubian Egg, and Sludge Belcher to their Barnes decks virtually eliminates its potential downsides.
The main reasons that Blizzard decided to separate Hearthstone into two modes were to keep the game fresh and to ensure that the delicate balance of the collectible card game genre cannot easily be upset by a single new card. Take, for instance, the curious case of Menagerie Warden. In Hearthstone’s Standard mode, this card is going to be very powerful thanks to Blizzard’s increased interest in making Beast-based Druid decks a competitively viable concept. Actually, it might end up being a card that gets nerfed down the line.
If Blizzard was worried about Wild mode, however, you can bet that this card would never have been released. Why? Well, that would be due to a Wild-only card called Druid of the Fang. Although Druid of the Fang never saw much play when it was available in all Hearthstone formats, he would simply dominate the Hearthstone Standard meta once Menagerie Warden hits. The thought of producing a 7/7 creature on turn five alongside whatever else you have on the board is bad enough. Two 7/7 creatures on turn six with a 5/5 Menagerie Warden in play just for laughs? That’s the kind of play that sends legions of Hearthstone players to message boards to convey their outrage through memes.