Journey to Un’Goro First Impressions
Un’Goro is out for over 24 hours already, so it might be the right time to write something about it. Early expansions are always exciting in a way that you can never expect what’s going to happen. Theorycrafting is great, pre-release brews are cool, but it’s the first days that really hits you in the face with “how didn’t I see this coming?” or “how could I think that this is ever going to work?”. And it did, it did on so many levels. The expansion looks completely different than what I’ve expected, but it doesn’t mean that it’s particularly bad.
In this article I’d like to share some of my early thoughts about the release, about the meta, the decks that feel powerful and about the expansion in general.
Okay, so first a short rant… Expansion’s release was pretty terrible this time around. I’ve heard that NA was lagging very hard for the first 2 or 3 hours, but well, that’s to be expected. But what I find crazy is a complete lack of communication about the EU release. As it happens, the 03:00 AM CET release was announced quite a bit ago, but it was on some French site that I have never heard about. No one knew when the expansion will be out. People have thought about midnight, then 1 AM or 2 AM… And they’ve waited. People were tweeting at Blizzard, spamming reddit, writing tickets etc. and you know what? No one gave the release time. Blizzard was silent, they haven’t said a single word about that. Even though thousands of customers were waiting for their product and they knew about it.
It pissed me off, because even one Tweet saying that “The expansion will be released at 3 AM CET” would solve all the issues. People who didn’t want to wait would just go to the bed without feeling bad about it.
I also had some problems with purchasing packs through Amazon. I had like 1k Coins left so I wanted to buy 7 more packs for that, but the game has frozen on “Waiting for authorization”. But that one is probably on Amazon, because I never did have problems like that when buying the packs from other sources. And the main problem was that this “waiting for authorization” has blocked my shop for like 2 hours and I couldn’t buy packs with gold (~60 of them). Crafting things when I still have 60 packs left to open would feel terrible. Luckily I’ve played a bit with the cards I’ve already opened and the shop eventually started working.
Okay, end of the rant, I could finally play the game and start playtesting the decks!
I honestly thought that the meta is going to slow down this time. But it appears that Pirate Warrior is still one of the most popular decks, if not THE MOST popular. I mean, I’m not even that surprised, because Pirate Warrior is perfect at punishing slow deck experiments and that’s the theme of the early meta. At the same time it’s pretty sad that it’s impossible to have even a single day of slower meta with all the fun decks, no. But people want to win, so I can’t blame them. I think that teching Golakka Crawler against Pirates might be a great idea right now. Not only Pirate Warrior is decently popular, but Quest Rogue also runs Pirates, not to mention that I’ve ever seen Pirates in Aggro Druid at rank 3 or 4, so well, Pirates are in the meta. Golakka Crawler can really punish them – destroying their 2-drop or even 3-drop Pirate while playing a 3/4 minion yourself, all for 2 mana, is a huge tempo swing.
Besides Pirates, there are few more decks that seems to be very popular after day 1:
The Quest reward is really powerful and Taunt Warrior is pretty good at punishing the fast decks. Since it plays Taunt after Taunt after Taunt, it’s pretty hard to get through. And if you finally remove everything and flood the board, Brawl can punish you. The deck might not be the strongest in the meta, but you meet it quite often. So far Warriors have been like 50/50 between Pirates and Taunt for me.
I was playing the N'Zoth, the Corruptor version last night and it was quite alright. To be fair, I’ve expected a bit more. The main issue I had was that I faced too many Combo Mages. And winning against Combo Mage with this deck is nigh impossible – once they get the combo, they OTK you and you can’t do anything about it. And you can’t put enough pressure on them to rush them down before they finish it. On the other hand, it works really well against Aggro decks and it has a solid win rate against
I think that in the current meta I’d drop N’Zoth, the Corruptor. It’s too slow. Most of the games are finished well by the time I can play a good N’Zoth. I’ll try lists from different players and see which one works best, because pretty much every deck looks different. After some more optimizations, the deck might be pretty solid.
Example decklist: RayC’s Taunt Quest Warrior
This deck is really common, because it turned out to be very powerful. It’s pretty interesting, because it’s like an Aggro Combo deck. Most of the Combo decks we’ve seen so far were Control, or maybe Midrange, but not Aggro. The deck is quite consistent and hard to play against – if they get perfect draws, well, you’re screwed. If they can finish the Quest on turn 4 or 5 and then start flooding the board with 5/5’s… Good luck!
This is the deck I’ve been playing most in this expansion and so far I’m 18-5 with it, starting at rank 6. While it might not completely dominate the meta, as there are some counters – e.g. Dirty Rat works incredibly well against it, it’s also hard to pass through the Handlock’s wall of Taunts – right now it looks promising.
And the best thing about this Quest is that it was the lowest rated of them all. I mean, people weren’t even that far off – this Quest’s power lies in finishing it very quickly. If you play the Quest on turn 7 or 8, it’s not that strong, because by that time the game is already over + 5/5’s that late into the game aren’t too strong. But the quest is incredibly consistent, you can finish it between turns 4 and 6 most of the time, often you can also Preparation it out right away for only 2 mana and start getting the value immediately.
Example decklist: Dog’s Quest Rogue
OTK Quest Mage
Yeeaah, a combo deck. A pretty powerful combo deck. At first I thought that the Arcane Giant version will be more popular, it seems that the so-called “Exodia Mage” is better. The deck is basically an epitome of uninteractive, “solitaire” deck. It plays its own game, trying to draw as many cards as possible, stall the game and then kill the opponent in a single turn (well, technically two turns because the reward gives you another turn).
Basically, the combo looks like that. You play 2x Sorcerer's Apprentice and 2x Molten Reflection. Now you have 4 Sorcerer’s Apprentice on the board and 3 mana left. You can now finish your Quest (it should be pretty easy with so many Discounts) and play it. Next turn (the extra turn) you drop Archmage Antonidas, play any spell and start the Fireball train. You basically can kill any opponent that way, unless he has Ice Block up. 30 health? No problem. 100? You should also manage. Maybe at 150+ health you wouldn’t be able to play so many Fireballs in a single turn, which would be pretty funny, but really unrealistic.
I personally like playing such decks and I was having a blast when playing it so far. Even if it won’t be the most powerful thing ever, taking an extra turn is one of the most awesome mechanics. At the same time, however, it’s one of the most abusable, which this deck showcases perfectly. While Aggro can still rush you down, you should be able to destroy every slower deck you meet.
Example decklist: Dog’s OTK Quest Mage
People are trying many different versions of the new Midrange Shaman, but I think that this approach is the most powerful one. It’s a mix between Jade Shaman and Elemental Shaman. It combines the best of two worlds – it has great curve of Elemental Shaman and the snowball mechanic of Jade. It might be the new most powerful version of Shaman. Even though Shaman lost a very powerful early game cards like Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem, it fills the early game curve with elementals instead so it still stands a chance against faster decks. And at the same time, it has a lot of staying power, big bodies and value for the late game.
One card that’s really MVP right now is Servant of Kalimos. In Shaman, the card is really nuts. Remember that class cards have 400% offering rate in Discover. With so many powerful, big Elementals like Earth Elemental, Fire Elemental and Kalimos, Primal Lord you’re nearly guaranteed to get some big, late game card. By running 2 of them, you can cut some of your late game and you will still have a solid shot in the slower matchups. Not to mention the 4/5 body it immediately puts. It’s so much better for slow matchups than Netherspite Historian was in Dragon decks, and it was already amazing. I know why Brann Bronzebeard is gone, because it would be broken in this deck.
Example decklist: Machamp’s Elemental/Jade Shaman
This one is on Trump. It was the first deck he was trying out in the Un’Goro and even though he was playing it at the lower ranks, the score was pretty amazing. He had over 80% win rate, starting with a 11 wins streak. The deck is really solid and can actually stay with us in the upcoming meta. It’s simple – if you want to build a wall, play Handlock. Without the healing of Reno Jackson and with a lot of self-damage effects, the deck had to put a different approach. Instead of healing, it uses Taunts to survive. HUGE TAUNTS.
There are pretty much two kinds of minions in the deck. First category are huge minions and second are “activators”. Ancient Watcher, Humongous Razorleaf are two that can’t do anything without an activator, but are seriously overstatted. There is also Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant, which are classic “huge minions that come out early”. You can play a lot of big bodies early, but it wouldn’t matter if the opponent would just rush you down. To prevent that, lists run A LOT of ways to Taunt up your guys. Sunfury Protector and Defender of Argus turn your minions that can’t attack into huge Taunts that your opponent can’t get through easily. There is also Faceless Shambler, which is slightly different – it just takes the Stats of a big minion and can normally attack. But it’s insane. You can consistently play it on turn 4 for a 4/8 Taunt, that’s way, WAY above the normal stat line.
Imagine this opening, which is actually quite common. Turn 2 Ancient Watcher, turn 3 Humongous Razorleaf and turn 4 Defender of Argus. Now you have a 5/6 Taunt, 5/9 Taunt and a 2/3 in play on turn 4. Even the fastest decks like Pirate Warrior will have a REALLY hard time going through this and they will have to waste a lot of their precious resources. And what if they go through? Then you can play even more Taunts. Or you already have your 8/8 Giant on the board and you can easily race them. That’s the cool thing about Handlock – the deck can often RACE the opponent around turn 5-6, even if you play against a faster deck. They can’t easily deal with a huge minion and you put Taunts to back it up.
This deck is pretty hard to play perfectly, but if you master it, it can be really rewarding. Plus there is a nostalgia factor, I’ve played a lot of Handlock 2 or 3 years ago, so being able to have a similar experience is really cool.
Example decklist: Trump’s Handlock
So far I’ve met two kind of Hunters – Quest Hunters and Midrange Hunters. I didn’t lose a SINGLE GAME to a Quest Hunter yet, it seems to not work at all. They flood the board with a bunch of 1-drops, but they have to skip turn 1. The reward is pretty powerful, but it doesn’t automatically win the game. It still takes some time to get all the 3/2’s and actually not chaining them is really weak. If they don’t open with a Carnassa’s Brood then well, they usually drop some weak 1-drop and pass turn 6 or 7. It’s way more than enough to take the necessary tempo and control the board easily. Any AoE also destroys it.
On the other hand, I think that Midrange Hunter works quite well. It might be because it’s still early, but the deck is more powerful than it was. It didn’t really lose that much with the rotation (Quick Shot is pretty much the only big hit) while it gained some new, strong tools. I’m amazed by how powerful Crackling Razormaw is. The card can easily win the game on its own if you pick the right Adapt, and with the right amount of 1-drops it can consistently hit on-curve while it has solid late game scaling at the same time.
Hunter was by far the worst class in the previous meta. Pro players like Zalae couldn’t even hit Legend with the deck. Right now Sjow easily hit Legend on day 1 without breaking a sweat. So it looks really good.
Example decklist: Sjow’s Midrange Beast Hunter
Another deck that is quite popular on the ladder is Zoo Warlock. So far I’ve been meeting two versions – Quest ones and non-Quest ones. Quest ones turned out to be pretty… underwhelming, because it’s just too slow. Finishing the Warlock’s Quest is harder than most of the other Quests. Or even if not harder, it comes at a bigger sacrifice. When you run a Quest deck, you’re already 1 card down. Then by discarding you pretty much run out of cards so fast that you have to waste 2 mana every turn to Hero Power. Which means that you’re down on the tempo and most of the fast decks can just kill you before you complete the Quest. That’s the main issue – we’d need more cards like or Clutchmother Zavas that negate this issue, or more cards like Silverware Golem which gives you some tempo. Sure, there is the new Cruel Dinomancer, but it’s really slow. It’s a 6-drop and only spawns something when it dies. Let’s say that you play it on 6, trade on 7 and you can only attack with the minion on 8. Most of the faster games don’t even last that long, which makes it a bit underwhelming.
On the other hand, it looks like the classic Discard Zoo list is stronger. Clutchmother is powerful tool that is the “discard catcher” and a tempo minion at the same time – first you can discard it (while not discarding it) and then you play it as let’s say 2 mana 6/6. Other good minion is the Devilsaur Egg, which is the spirit successor of Nerubian Egg. A bit weaker, but still gives you a nice tempo swing and protection against AoE. But the MVP for me so far has been the . Eating Devilsaur Egg on turn 4 was pretty much game over every time. Later eating some small minion to get a 4 mana 7/7 or 7/4 with Divine Shield or 4/4 with Stealth and Windfury (next turn you can buff it with Abusive/Argus/etc. and push for a lot of damage) is pretty insane. There are some awkward situations where you have no minion to eat, but those are pretty rare.
Example decklist: Stonekeep’s Discard Zoo Warlock
I like the expansion, but I don’t like the fact, that the game is still very fast. I was really fed up with Pirate Warriors after facing them every third game for the last 4 months. And the first day was full of them, full of all kinds of Aggro decks. I don’t even mind playing against Aggro, but I want to play the slower matchups too, because I enjoy those a lot more. I think that the meta still has a chance to slow down. Aggro decks are best at punishing non-refined builds, but once people start teching against them, it should be better. I think that we’ve got enough anti-Aggro tools to make up for that.
I like the Quests. I was afraid that they won’t be powerful enough, because after all you start with one less card and you get nothing from it until you finish the Quest. But it turned out that finishing the Quests isn’t that hard and the rewards are well worth it. One thing I don’t like about them is that they kinda limit deck building – if you want to play a Quest Warrior you HAVE to play Taunts and if you want to play Priest, you HAVE to play Deathrattles. There is still a bit of variety when it comes to how you build the deck, so it’s not THAT bad, but I’d like quests to be less.. restrictive, if you know what I mean.
One thing I really love when it comes to the new expansion is the number of new mechanics and things we haven’t seen before. Between Quests, Elementals, Adapt, Hemet’s effect, Elise’s pack etc. each game is full of new stuff.
I’ll still need a week or so to rate the expansion, but right now I’m enjoying it quite a lot.
That’s all folks. Next article will be a compilation of the most successful decks from pros/streamers. Later I will probably write a few guides, so stay tuned!
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment in the section below. And if you want to be up to date, you can follow me on Twitter.
Good luck on the ladder and until next time!