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March 16, 2017

Table of Contents

A Mammoth Transformation: The Effects of The Upcoming Hearthstone Rotation, Part 1


The Year of the Mammoth is going to turn the Hearthstone gaming scene on its head! With the new rotation, the list of viable decks, of class power levels, of metagame ‘tiers’— all will be up for grabs. In this pair of articles, we’ll look at the effects of the rotation on the Hearthstone metagame.

Part 1 (this article) focuses on the past, going expansion-by-expansion and picking out noteworthy cards that are going away. Each card’s place in metagames past will be explained and memorialized.

Part 2 will take a quick look into the possible future of how each class will fare with just the newest sets under their belts— taking cards from the new expansion, Journey to Un’Goro, into account. Part 2 will come out once all cards from Journey to Un’Goro have been revealed, around the end of March.

Classic and the Hall of Fame

Blizzard’s announcement that they’d move six cards from Classic into Wild caught many people by surprise. The cards in the Classic set have been with Hearthstone from the start of the beta; now, some of the best of the best will be Wild-only.

The Utility Dragon

Neutral card draw made it too good to last.

The Classic card that will probably have the largest effect on the meta by its absence is, of course, Azure Drake. This 5-mana Dragon could do it all – it gave decks a source of neutral card draw, added spell damage for Mages and Shamans, and gave Priests and Dragon Warriors a utility Dragon to hold down the middle of their curve. All but the most aggressive decks ran it; finally, Blizzard decided it was too popular.

With Azure Drake gone, decks will have to diversify their 5-mana slot. Fortunately, Blizzard has seen fit to print a large number of class 5-drops in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion— and there’s undoubtedly more on the way.

Titans of Azeroth

Sylvanas Windrunner and Ragnaros the Firelord are two of the most iconic cards in Hearthstone. Sylvanas has been one of the best value generators (and headache generators, for the opponent) available, and Ragnaros’s 8-damage fireballs were the decider of entirely too many tournament matches since competitive Hearthstone gained a following.

Blizzard decided to send Sylvanas and Ragnaros to Wild for a similar reason as Azure Drake; like the now-vanished Dr. Boom, there were few minions that could better fill the high end of a deck, to the point that players would throw Sylvanas or Ragnaros in if they needed something big but nonspecific. Fortunately, there’ll likely be other huge drops with powerful effects. Players will adapt as the meta shifts.

Sylvanas wanted to stay in Standard, but she had no time for the games.

The Enablers

The last three cards entering the new Hall of Fame set are a trio of cards that got their ticket because they enabled a play style Blizzard considered unhealthy. Ice Lance, Conceal, and Power Overwhelming will be missed by Freeze Mage, Miracle Rogue, and Warlocks of all kinds.

Ice Lance got the axe because it enabled Freeze Mage’s infamous OTK burst combos, central to the deck’s strategy of stalling until it could explode the opponent’s face. Without Ice Lance, Freeze Mage— a deck that has been with Hearthstone since its founding, for better or worse— goes the way of the dodo.

Conceal seems like an odd pick at first glance, until the potential uses became clear to Rogue players. The card was an easy way to set up two-turn lethals, rendering opponents helpless to clear massive, game-ending boards. Blizzard heard the salt of the people, condemning Conceal to a lifetime in Wild forevermore. Rogue can survive, but it may have to become less greedy.

Power Overwhelming was meant to be a tool for trading when it was made, and a card to illustrate Warlock’s ‘class identity’. Players quickly turned it into a tool to end games with massive burst (particularly with Leeroy Jenkins), and clear boards with giant Shadowflames— all for 1 Mana!
Zoo Warlock will miss the burst, but it can survive without it— as long as it has a rabble of minions it can rely on. (Reno Warlock has other problems.)

Creators of infuriating situations.


Blackrock Mountain

Blackrock Mountain was Hearthstone’s second Adventure, and it managed to be just as good as (if not better than) its predecessor, Curse of Naxxramas. The adventure is known for introducing lots of Dragon synergy and the ‘holding a Dragon’ mechanic to Hearthstone, as well as several neutral cards that have had major impacts on the meta. Most of the classes picked up some useful tools from this expansion as well.

Three (In)famous Neutrals

Warsong Commander, as it used to be.

Compared to Curse of Naxxramas, Blackrock Mountain, released in April of 2015, toned down the overall power level of adventure cards. However, several neutral cards had powerful enough effects that they turned the meta upside down nonetheless.

The most memorable of these is Grim Patron. Amazingly, Patron was originally a sleeper card on BRM’s release— until pro players took the multiplying minion and combined it with Warrior Whirlwind effects and the Charge-giving effect of the Warrior card Warsong Commander to create one of the most over-the-top Hearthstone decks ever, featuring perpetually multiplying Patrons that could clear an opponent’s board and still keep ‘getting in here’.

The party lasted until October of 2015, when Blizzard nerfed Warsong Commander, rendering newly summoned Patrons unable to attack immediately. The nerf was probably the most controversial in the history of Hearthstone, causing pages of arguments and not a few groan-worthy jokes. Patron Warrior did eventually regroup, reconstituting itself after the nerfs as a tempo deck. Later, in the Karazhan meta, Patron Warrior showed up again as a control deck; its goal, to get a board full of Patrons as a lead-up to a Charging Arcane Giant or Raging Worgen finisher. Neither version of the deck was quite like the original. The Year of the Kraken and the later nerf to the Warrior card Charge did the updated versions of the deck in, and the new rotation is now putting Patron Warrior to bed for good.

BY THE POWERRRRRRRRR OF— [motorboat noises]

The other adventure card that had a huge impact on the game is the legendary Emperor Thaurissan. Emperor T’s mana-discounting effect enabled numerous ‘OTK’ (One-Turn Kill) decks focused on killing your opponent in a single, turn-long combo. When combined with cards like Malygos or Leeroy Jenkins, the king of the Dark Iron Dwarves formed a potent— and lethal— combination.

Even in decks that didn’t run combos, Emperor T saw success, being an easy include in any deck that played the long game. Its effect rendered it devastating to ignore, forcing opponents to kill it immediately, or regret every turn in the game afterwards. With Emperor T moving to Wild, it’s highly probable that Blizzard (which dislikes combo decks) will never introduce a mana-discounting effect of the same caliber ever again— or, if one does exist, its utility will be sharply limited in comparison.

A dishonorable mention for BRM neutrals goes to Majordomo Executus, the legendary most known for getting you killed by turning your hero into Ragnaros, the Firelord… with a paltry 8 Health to show for it. While the card, which had an annoying habit of turning up through ‘random legendary’ effects, did find its way into highlight videos, it’s almost certainly not ‘“too soon” to see it consigned to Wild games only.

The Dragons Depart

Blackrock Mountain started the ‘Holding a Dragon’ mechanic, where having dragons in your hand activates a card’s special abilities. Because of this, the adventure has the bulk of the initial Dragon ‘core’ provided to players— and now it’s moving to Wild. In particular, Blackwing Technician, Blackwing Corruptor, and Drakonid Crusher will vanish with the Year of the Mammoth, along with Twilight Whelp for Priests. By itself, this wouldn’t be completely catastrophic— but Azure Drake is rotating out as well, and Dragon-wielding classes received further support in The Grand Tournament, support which is also falling by the wayside.

Because of all of this, both Dragon Priest and Dragon Warrior lose large chunks of their mid-game as BRM rotates out— and losing Azure Drake along with it is the final loss for that section of their curve. Whether Dragon decks will be able to survive in Standard at all post-rotation is an open question.

Class Cards

Most classes got something good out of Blackrock Mountain, but how good varies drastically.

Druid loses Druid of the Flame. While this may seem like a fairly unremarkable loss, this does hurt the future potential of Beast Druid, as the other rotating expansions have other Beasts that Druids will be sad to lose.

Pew pew pew!

Hunter is in a worse spot, losing Quick Shot, one of its best removals (and, in fact, its only 2-mana removal). With this, Hunter is going to have to rely harder on trying to control the board in the early game— if it can pull it off! Blizzard has been hesitant to give Hunters good early game in recent expansions.

Mage has perhaps the worst loss of all the classes, as Flamewaker goes into Wild. This minion was one of Mage’s best control tools, pinging off weakened minions as the Mage slung spells with abandon. Because of this, it was often Public Enemy No. 1 to opposing players, drawing removal whenever it hit the board. Future iterations of Tempo Mage are going to miss this crazy pyromaniac.

Paladin loses Solemn Vigil, a alternate draw card aimed at Control Paladin archetypes, with the intention for it to be played as part of a board clear combo. Murloc (Anyfin) Paladin and the former N’Zoth Paladin both used it; both decks will miss it, but N’Zoth Paladin has a chance to resurge in the Year of the Mammoth.

Rogue loses Dark Iron Skulker and Gang Up. 
Dark Iron Skulker is mostly notable in how it gained life during the Karazhan Midrange Shaman meta as a tech against boards full of Shaman totems. Gang Up, on the other hand, is more interesting; the card allowed Mill Rogue to never run out of Coldlight Oracles (or, before the Year of the Kraken, Antique Healbots).

With one less way to generate these, Warlock will be imp-eriled.

Shaman loses Lava Shock, one of the two overload-removing tools available and a useful bit of burn. While Eternal Sentinel is still an option, it’s a minion as opposed to a spell, which slows Shaman down a bit when it comes to Overload.

Warlock loses Imp Gang Boss, one of the most imp-ressive Zoo Warlock tools to vanish since the loss of Imp-losion. Warlock’ll have to scramble for another ‘big drop’ (to Zoo warlocks) that’s as imp-actful as this one was.
Warlock also loses Demonwrath, but the deck it would go in— Renolock— has some bigger problems on its hands.

Finally, Warrior loses Revenge, a card which gave Control Warrior a way to wipe the board if things weren’t going well— with the option of following it up with a giant minion afterwards. Control Warrior will have to watch the state of the board more carefully from now on.

The Grand Tournament

The Grand Tournament is remembered as an expansion that granted new life to archetypes across the nine classes. Less charitably, it’s remembered as an expansion where a lot of the cards were junk. That said, though, the cards that were good were spectacular.

Friend to fatigue decks everywhere.

Farewell From the Grand Tournament, Champion

One of the cards from TGT that made a particularly big impact was none other than the legendary Justicar Trueheart. This Hero Power-buffing tournament organizer was a boon to any class that played the long game, such as control-oriented Priest and Warrior decks. Control Warrior will have to find an alternate source of end-game Armor gain with Justicar gone— and Control Priest, though it hasn’t been around lately, looks to be no closer to resurging.


Some Useful Neutrals

Pictured: the heart of Dragon decks.

Justicar isn’t the only neutral card decks will miss; The Grand Tournament had a motley assortment of useful neutral minions, too. In particular, Twilight Guardian was a must for any dragon deck— with it gone, both Dragon Priest and Dragon Warrior have a hole in their curve at the 4 mana slot. This impacts Dragon Warrior less, as they still have Kor'kron Elite, but both decks appreciated the increased survivability— and this isn’t the only Dragon archetype card these decks lose in the set, or the rotation.

Argent Horserider is a notable loss for aggressive decks, serving as 2 extra damage to the face or acting as a slightly-better-than-a-ping that stuck around on the board.
While Pirates have partly subsumed the Horserider’s popularity these days, Argent was popular in numerous face-y Shaman and Hunter decks over the course of the past year.

Chillmaw took a starring role in the original Dragon Priest as an anti-Zoo card. While this variant of Dragon Priest fell out of favor after the release of League of Explorers, the ice dragon got a second lease on life in the Old Gods meta as a Taunt that could be resurrected by N'Zoth, the Corruptor.

Gormok the Impaler was a useful tool for Zoo Warlock for some time, until Karazhan gave Shaman the ‘tiny AOE’ of Maelstrom Portal and ruined Zoo’s day. His damage could control the board or help finish off an opponent, all packaged with a solid body. Zoo has since risen again, but Gormok is absent. Post-rotation, his place will likely be filled without fanfare by a Defender of Argus or Dark Iron Dwarf.

Refreshment Vendor, Flame Juggler, and Injured Kvaldir also rotate out. These three cards were notable as a heal in Reno decks, a filler minion in older aggro decks, and as part of a Hunter combo with League of Explorers’ Desert Camel, respectively.

Class Cards

Druid: The Vanished Early and Late Game

They’re going back to their roots.

The Grand Tournament was good to Druid, and now the fruits of the tournament are going back away. From its early game, Druid loses Living Roots, a useful tool for controlling the board early on that doubled as a removal spell. The existence of Jade Idol makes up for the board-control loss a bit, but there’s no substitute for the early removal. In addition, Malygos Druid has one less cheap burst tool to go at the face.

Druid’s early game also loses Darnassus Aspirant, a minion with temporary early-game ramping capabilities. The Aspirant was more popular prior to the Gadgetzan release, where Jade Blossom took over its duties.

Druid of the Saber also vanishes from Druid’s arsenal. In the TGT meta, Druid of the Saber enabled a highly aggressive Druid variant for several seasons before the release of League of Explorers. Now, Beast Druid will regret the loss (along with all the other Beasts that are vanishing this year).

Druid’s best hard removal, Mulch, is also heading to Wild (though the fact that it was Druid’s best hard removal says more about ‘what cards Blizzard will print for Druid’ than Mulch’s own value.)

On the Legendary side, Aviana is going down the tubes. While this legendary did not see play for some time, the release of the Gadgetzan card Kun the Forgotten King created a combo that featured playing Aviana into Kun, then using Kun’s mana-refresh abilities to cheat out minions like Malygos or C'Thun for a game-ending burst combo.

Finally, Druid loses Savage Combatant, an all-round good minion that had ‘Beast Druid’ written all over it… but it was not to be.

The other Druid combo.

Hunter: Nothing Much To See Here

Hunter didn’t have many cards from TGT that saw competitive play. King's Elekk saw some use in Midrange Hunter as a solid early game Beast, and Dreadscale was used as a tech against the infamous Secret Paladin.

Lock and Load also saw some play during the Yogg-Saron era, in a ‘fun deck’ focused on getting lots of value from spells.

Mage: Arcane Pain

Mage only loses one significant card from TGT, but it’s a doozy. Arcane Blast was excellent early removal for mages, which could scale up with Spell Damage to turn into super-cheap late removal down the road (especially comboed with Cult Sorcerer and/or Flamewaker). It will be sorely missed by Mages of all stripes.

Paladin: None of Your Business!

Mysterious Challenger probably isn’t responsible for the introduction of the Year system by itself, but…

The most infamous card Paladin loses from The Grand Tournament is perhaps the card everyone thinks of when they think of the first rotation that kicked off the Year of the Kraken last March. Mysterious Challenger single-handedly created a Paladin archetype— Secret Paladin— which oppressed the ladder for months until Blizzard announced they’d start the rotation system.
The Year of the Kraken was the only thing that could kill Secret Paladin, moving the deck’s early curve— Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle— into Wild, as well as its best secret, Avenge. Now, the Year of the Mammoth is here to make sure that Secret Paladin never again rises in Standard (though in Wild, the deck persists happily to this day).

Paladin also loses the useful secret Competitive Spirit and the infuriating Murloc Knight to the rotation as well.

Priest: The Dragons Fly Away

Not only does Dragon Priest lose Azure Drake from Classic, early-game and midgame from BRM, and Twilight Guardian from The Grand Tournament’s neutrals— but the 2-drop taunt Wyrmrest Agent is also going by the wayside, giving Dragon Priest less early-game protection. This is the final straw for the deck; it’s now missing all but one Dragon synergy card it’d play before Turn 5! It remains to be seen if the archetype can recover.

Flash Heal, providing simple burst healing (or burst damage in the presence of an Auchenai Soulpriest) for the long-forgotten Control Priest, will also be missed by Priest fans. It’s simple and fun, but it’s time for it to say goodbye.

Rogue: Even Less To See Here

Rogue loses almost nothing from the TGT section of the rotation. Beneath the Grounds was used as a tech against Reno decks during the Gadgetzan era, with moderate success.

Shaman: Gets Bodied

Some days, all you really need is a big pile of stats.

Shaman loses so many good cards from TGT that it’s hard to pick which to talk about first, but the biggest loss is almost certainly Totem Golem.

Totem Golem was Shaman’s best early-game drop, being a ridiculously large minion that had no business coming out on Turn 2 (or Turn 1 with The Coin). Shaman will particularly miss it (especially in combination with Tunnel Trogg, which is also rotating out), as without Totem Golems, Shamans’ early game tends to rely heavily on their hero power.

Thunder Bluff Valiant is the class’s second-biggest loss in TGT, and a blow to Midrange Shaman. The card was a win condition all by itself, allowing a board full of totems to become a rampaging menace aimed squarely at the opponent’s face. Midrange Shaman will have to find other ways of winning, though the Jade package from Gadgetzan suggests an obvious alternative.

Shamans of all types lose other things from TGT, as well. The draw of Ancestral Knowledge is gone, and Control Shaman players will miss Shaman’s ultimate board clear, Elemental Destruction. The loss of Healing Wave also hurts Control Shaman’s survivability.

Finally, Tuskarr Totemic is also rotating out. This totem-summoning 3-drop has not been played ever since it was nerfed, but prior to that, its chance of summoning a Totem Golem, Flametongue Totem, or Mana Tide Totem made it an auto-include in Shaman decks for some time.

Warlock: A Horse is a Horse…

Warlock’s main loss from TGT is Dreadsteed. While the little horse that could had seen some usage in decks with Mal'Ganis, its primary use nowadays has been a starring role in various Tavern Brawls.
Wrathguard is also rotating out, to the dismay of the makers of various highlight videos and no one else.

Warrior: The Other Dragons Fly Away

Dragon Priest isn’t the only Dragon deck losing most of its curve. Dragon Warrior also loses the BRM suite and Twilight Guardian— along with Alexstrasza's Champion, a Charging 2-drop that helped Warrior gain early board control like Dragon Priest’s Wyrmrest Agent. Dragon Warrior is in a marginally better place than Dragon Priest, as it used Faerie Dragon (a Classic card) as an early drop and Kor'kron Elite as a mid-game minion, but most of its curve is still off to Wild. The deck probably won’t survive.

There is to be no bashing of this card.

Warrior also loses Bash, a handy control/armor gain spell. It could do everything— act like an extra Fiery War Axe charge, push damage, help control the board, or pull your face out of the fire. Control Warrior will survive without it, but it’ll be sorely missed.

Varian Wrynn, which saw play in some Control Warriors as a late-game bomb after TGT’s release, and in Tempo Warrior in the Old Gods meta, is now back to spicing up Tavern Brawls. Bolster Warrior will also be impossible to play in Standard after the rotation, as Bolster will be in Wild.

League of Explorers

The League of Explorers is one of the most memorable Hearthstone adventures to date, and a strong contender for ‘Best Storyline’ as well. It also gave out twice as many cards as past adventures— and there was something good for every class inside. Now the Standard ladder’ll have to do without it.

A League of Legendaries

The four Legendary members of the titular League each had their own impact on Hearthstone’s metagame. From Reno Jackson to Elise Starseeker, everyone’s going to miss these four intrepid explorers.

We’re Gonna Be Rich! (in Wild)

…or very, very dead.

Some cards find their way into existing deck archetypes. Some create new ones. Reno Jackson falls into the second category. The treasure-hunter’s full heal effect created a whole new class of ‘highlander’ decks that substituted variety and longevity for consistency. Blizzard followed up on this mechanic with the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion, where Warlocks, Mages, and Priests each got their own Reno-specific cards (Krul the Unshackled, Inkmaster Solia, and Raza the Chained, as well as Kazakus for all three.) Now Reno’s going away. Each of the decks has its own response.

Reno Warlock relied on Reno the heaviest, using its full heal after an early phase of Life Tapping (and/or being beat on by the opponent). They may not be able to sustain the archetype without him. Krul the Unshackled, the Warlock highlander legendary, saw little use over the past seasons, as it didn’t synergize with Reno Warlock’s gameplan. For the card to take off, it’s likely Blizzard would have to print more quality Demons to give it enough support.

Reno Mage focused on the Reno / Ice Block combo. Inkmaster Solia, Mage’s highlander legendary, does allow a free spell when played. Without Reno, though, the deck has to become more aggressive in order to kill enemies before dying (especially as it can only run one Ice Block or risk Kazakus and Solia not going off). With Brann Bronzebeard, another League member, also packing his bags, the deck won’t be able to get extra value in the form of two of Kazakus’s potions, either. This suggests Reno Mage will either reform to a deck focused on burst— or die out.

Will any of these cards be played in the Year of the Mammoth?


Reno Priest’s legendary, Raza the Chained, makes the Priest’s Hero Power free for the rest of the game. While Reno Priest previously ran a dragon-synergy build, with both dragons and Reno going away, Priest will have to fall back on a classic ‘bag of tricks’ build— and the class has been low on tricks for the bag in recent expansions. Can Blizzard provide new support?
Interestingly, Blizzard designers have predicted that Reno Priest is the only highlander deck that will survive the rotation, probably because Priests already focus on healing.

The Workhorse of the League

He does it for the vine.

Reno Jackson was a perfect representation of the showboating, greedy adventurer: expensive, well-statted, with a massive effect that might not go off. Meanwhile, Brann Bronzebeard was the exact opposite— a card providing a consistent and very useful effect, with enough health to survive.

Brann was a sleeper card of the League of Explorers, as many people initially thought he would be like Baron Rivendare (which was handicapped by the possibility that Deathrattles might be triggered by your opponent in inopportune orders). However, once LoE was released, Brann’s true power became clear, and the adventurous dwarf found a home in any deck with enough Battlecries. Because of Brann’s value-generating power, he quickly found a spot on opponents’ “Kill ASAP” list.

There’s no deck that absolutely relied on Brann to function, but lots of decks— from Jade Druid to Dragon Priest— will miss him.

A Class-Changing Adventure

Alas, poor Finley. We knew ye well.

The remaining two League members found their niches at opposite ends of the deck spectrum. Sir Finley Mrrgglton’s Hero-Power-shifting ability was a boon to aggressive Shaman and Warrior decks, allowing them to swap out their Totems and Armor for something that could do more direct damage (or provide card draw).

Sir Finley’s role was closer to ‘throw it in’ rather than ‘build around’; if you had a deck where you didn’t like the Hero Power, you could add Sir Finley to have a chance of swapping it out. Of the four League Legendaries, he’s probably the one whose rotation will have the least impact on the decks he served.

Fun fact: With Sir Finley and Justicar Trueheart rotating out at the same time, there are no remaining hero-power-altering cards that are open to every class.

Monkey Business!

She’s already planning her next expedition.

Just as Sir Finley Mrrgglton found a home with aggressive decks, Elise Starseeker ended up assisting the hardest control decks in the game. Elise’s effect let you eventually draw into the mystical Golden Monkey, which let you swap out dead early- and mid-game cards in your possession for Legendary minions. Elise essentially gave Control Warrior (and for a while, Control Priest) an extra win condition once the game started heading towards fatigue.
The loss of the extra win condition will likely push Control Warrior towards more skill-based play, as the deck must now use its removal optimally or be stuck with a hand of random cards come fatigue. This becomes particularly relevant in the mirror.

Class Cards

When this card was printed, everyone was Raven about it.

Druid loses Raven Idol, a useful Discover spell which could find everything Druid needed. In Malygos Druid, it could unearth extra burst. With Fandral Staghelm, it could generate Choose One cards (in addition to being a Choose One card itself). It could even feed Yogg-Saron, Hope's End, before Yogg was nerfed. The Idol was a utility card— but a good one.

Druid also loses Mounted Raptor, which is the final straw for Beast Druid’s future. It now has no good 3- and 4-drops to work with, and limited 2-drops… unless Blizzard prints some more, that is.

Hunter loses Desert Camel, which was mostly known for the Injured Kvaldir combo that was run for a little while in the Old Gods meta.

Mage is losing Forgotten Torch, which provided good early-game removal with the promise of drawing into a 3-mana Roaring Torch later on. The Roaring Torch’s 1-mana discount compared to Fireball was particularly useful in setting up end-game burst combos, and the card was just all-round good. May it never be ‘forgotten’.

Ethereal Conjurer also falls by the wayside. This minion let you pick an answer to whatever hole you found yourself in at that particular moment, for remarkable value. Effectively, Ethereal Conjurer served a similar role to Azure Drake— a minion with an okayish body that ‘drew’ you a card— and with Azure Drake also rotating out, Mage will have to find something new. If there’s enough spell synergy in the upcoming expansion, Burgly Bully could fill the role.

Paladin is going to lose an entire archetype as LoE rotates out, with Anyfin Can Happen making the trip to Wild. Anyfin made the Murloc Paladin deck, with its respawning Murlocs for a dramatic end-game burst combo, and its loss will very likely break it again. The move leaves Paladin without a current viable archetype to rely on.

Paladin also loses Keeper of Uldaman, one of Paladin’s best tools for dealing with annoying minions with giant bodies (or pumping up your own tiny minions). This further hurts Paladin’s future prospects.

All three of the class cards Priest received in League of Explorers saw use. Entomb is a particularly nasty loss— it was Priest’s most powerful hard removal (and their most infuriating one), with the ability to pull minions off of the board and into the Priest’s deck for later use.
 Museum Curator was a useful card for Priest during the N’Zoth era, providing strong Deathrattle minions to be resurrected by the Old God himself. Finally, Excavated Evil was a priest AoE with a drawback— which has since been replaced with better AoEs, but was a bit above Priest’s normal power level at the time of release.

Miracle Rogue gets hurt pretty badly at the onset of the Year of the Mammoth, as Tomb Pillager rotates out. The 5/4 body was good, but the free Coin is the real loss— Rogue’s combo potential goes down significantly. Miracle Rogue can turn to Burgly Bully to compensate, but will it be enough?

Deathrattle Rogue was popular during the Old Gods meta, but the loss of Unearthed Raptor is a big blow to its chances of returning. Rogue has some catching up to do in the upcoming year…

The card that made Thrall a legend.

Shamans, from the faciest to the most midrange, are going to miss Tunnel Trogg. In combination with Totem Golems or Feral Spirits (on The Coin), this 1/3 Overload-eater allowed for explosive Shaman starts, kicking off the era of Face Shaman and creating a generation of complaints about the class’s power. With Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem both gone, Shaman’s early game is close to nonexistent. The class may have to switch to focusing more on the late game in the Year of the Mammoth.

Warlock loses Dark Peddler, whose Discover effect was a boon to every Warlock archetype. In Zoo, the Warlock could find tools for board control, like Flame Imp and Abusive Sergeant. In Reno Warlock, the Warlock could fish for burst instead.

Fierce Monkey rotates out for Warriors. This Taunt’s Beast tag allowed it to be pulled by The Curator, giving the aggravated simian a niche in Dragon Warrior decks as a medium-sized Taunt. Dragon Warrior already loses so much that it’s hard to imagine the loss of Fierce Monkey making more of a difference, but no new decks will be able to use the midrange Beast.

Warrior also loses Cursed Blade, to the joy of Malkorok-users everywhere.

Other Neutrals

The League of Explorers’ neutrals, apart from the League members themselves, didn’t see much competitive play with one exception: Huge Toad. This Beast found a niche both as an early-game Hunter minion, and as a small minion that N’Zoth could resurrect because of its Deathrattle. There will be other Deathrattle minions, but Hunter is still in the hole when it comes to finding good early game.


So far, we’ve looked at the Hearthstone classes from Standard format as it is now, staring backwards. However, as of this article’s time of writing, the potential embodied in the upcoming expansion— Journey to Un-Goro— will soon be revealed to the world.

If you enjoyed this retrospective of Hearthstone prior to the impending astrological shift, we’d appreciate it if you share the article with your friends, or upvote it using the big green button below! We also have a tip jar (the big orange button) if you’re feeling generous.

Don’t forget to come back for Part 2 of this article, focusing on the meta going forwards, once all the Un’Goro cards are released. See you then!

Enjoyed this article?

Bocharaenai is a 39-time legend player who has obtained the rank with a wide variety of decks. Rumor has it that he currently resides in the Emerald Dream, waiting for Blizzard to make Zoo great again. Quackles is an inveterate scribbler who occasionally finds time to play Hearthstone.

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Leave a Reply

  1. Rhone says:

    this article keeps implying that blizzard removed these cardws for specific reasons of them being too good…but really theyre just being rotated out and cards in the recent expansions will be rotated out next year.

  2. harador says:

    With so many cards rotating out from standard then success is a must for Un-Goro. And thats going to be challenge + with 400 -ish new cards this year that cost even more now.
    I wonder what Blizzard thought of when they created the four legendary highlander cards that’s going to be useless without Reno after only 3,5 months in standard.


  3. Tyran Van Zyl says:

    All of this is meaningless as Wild is better than standard anyway :)

    • Quackles and Bocharaenai says:

      You sound like a very Wild person. 😉

      In that case, think of how all the upcoming Wild decks will be different from Standard, with all these cards listed up above that Standard players can’t get at! 😀

      • Tyran Van Zyl says:

        That’s what I love, it’s not JUST Jade Druid, Pirate Warrior & Jade Shaman… people play different stuff. Especially if they didn’t dust their cards in ‘ye olde standard’ hype