Running Wild: Here There Be Death Knights! (Part 1)
Greetings, dear readers, and welcome to another installment of ”Running Wild”, the article series where I cover just about everything related to the wild format. Last time I’ve covered some new cards that would fit right into some decks but I’ve avoided the topic of death knights, the new hero cards, so that I can finally give those guys and gals their own article. There is a lot to cover here, we’re talking about nine different heroes, so I’m dedicating this entire article to them. Due to time constrictions and the length of the topic, this article will be split into two parts with the first part covering druid, hunter, mage and paladin and the second part covering priest, rogue, shaman, warlock and warrior. If you’re not interested in the classes that are going to be covered in this article then make sure to stop by tomorrow when I’ll be covering the remaining death knights. There is a lot to talk about on this topic so I better get to it
With all that out of the way, sit back, relax and let’s just jump into this
Impressions and the Mechanic
There is a lot to say about the death knights when it comes to mechanics.
These cards are obviously inspired by hero cards from the classic World of Warcraft trading card game. The enter play, they do something and then they replace your hero and provide you with some health so that you don’t die instantly. World of Warcraft was one of few card games that I’ve tried but I was never really interested in so I wasn’t there when their version of hero cards came out. I’m not sure were there ways to tutor, search your deck, for those cards and that is something that I feel Hearthstone is missing. I like the way the quests were designed as in they appear in your starting hand and therefor you can build a deck around them because you will know that, with absolute certainty, you will draw your quest card the moment the game begins. This is something that I wish the hero cards had and I feel that it is a bit of a missed opportunity. However, there are pros and cons to this suggestion.
If you start the game with a hero card in your hand, all the time, guaranteed, you will be able to build decks solely around your hero card. Now, while there are decks like Reno combo priest which revolve heavily around the priest hero card and they usually need it in order to win the game, a lot of deck which include hero cards don’t usually need those cards in order to win. Hero cards exist in those decks simply because some of them are a strict upgrade of the basic hero class. If the hero mechanic worked in a way that you would always have your hero card in your opening hand then you would be able to build decks completely around those cards. Nowadays it is a risk to build a deck around a hero card when there is a 1:30 chance that you won’t even draw it.
The biggest con here is too many cards in your starting hand. I firmly believe that we will see hero cards again, that such a mechanic isn’t a one off and that Blizzard will eventually implement new ones, possibly once the current ones rotate out. There is, however, a problem of running too many hero cards in your deck. If there are two different hero cards in your deck then you’re starting the game with two late game cards in your hand. Why would you ever run more than one hero? I don’t really know, but there is always a possibility of some extremely greedy high cost deck showing up in the next five years and in order to work it will need two hero cards. Regardless, this would be a problem.
What do I suggest?
I would suggest creating a minion, a rare minion so that anyone can afford it, which draws your hero cards as a battlecry. Most heroes cost above 6 mana and if you’re making a deck centered around them then, most of the time, you won’t need them in your hand before turn 6 but you would also need to draw them before it is too late. A, for example, two mana 1/1 aspiring hero minion which draws you your hero card is a perfect way to assure that you will be getting the card that you’re deck is centered around on the turn that you need it. Now you have 3:30 chance to draw your hero which is good enough to build a deck around it.
Malfurion, the Pestilent
The first hero that I want to talk about is my favorite one, Malfurion the Pestilent. I absolutely love playing druid, ramp druid is one of my favorite decks of all time, and I’m super excited that one of my favorite classes got the best hero card (in my opinion). The way that I see the whole hero card situation is the following: you have two different types of hero cards, those that are a strict improvement over the basic class but warrant to specific deck (Malfurion the Pestilent and Uther of the Ebon Blade) and those that require a very specific deck in order to be any good (Scourgelord Garrosh and ). My prefered ones are those that are just a strict upgrade over the basic hero because I’ll be able to play them in almost every deck that I make. Nowadays it is impossible to find a reason not to include Malfurion the Pestilent because it is, at the very least, a better hero for the class.
When it comes to decks which would want Malfurion the Pestilent in them I can say any non aggressive druid deck. Essentially, everything except and aggro druid will do. At first I thought that this card might be too slow for an egg deck, which I still believe to be true, but it does provide you with two minions and 5 armor so while I personally wouldn’t run it in an egg druid I can understand why someone would do it. Overall, I think that the best deck for this hero card is the ramp druid. You really want to play Malfurion the Pestilent as soon as possible because it provides you with such a huge advantage over everybody else that it is not even funny.
A couple of friends sought my wisdom, before the expansion came out, and asked me which death knights are the best ones. My answer always was Malfurion the Pestilent, Deathstalker Rexxar and Bloodreaver Gul'dan. To this day I still claim that Deathstalker Rexxar is without a doubt one of the most powerful death knights in the entire game. It’s ability alone is capable of winning the game if left unchecked. The current problem that Deathstalker Rexxar is facing in the standard format is a ton of jade druids which can easily kill any slower deck and, let’s be honest, Deathstalker Rexxar isn’t made for a very fast deck. While midrange hunter is powerful it is not fast enough to take out a jade druid (exceptions, like always, are possible). So, what’s it like for Deathstalker Rexxar in the wild format?
Luckily, wild format has always been a bit of a slower place with no deck being the absolute dominant one with the rare exception of pirate warrior which appears here and there from time to time. Where I see this hero card is in deathrattle control hunter. You’ve got your Sludge Belcher, your Piloted Shredder and your N'Zoth, the Corruptor but besides them you also have Deathstalker Rexxar which will easily win you the game against another control deck. They can’t keep removing your minions at the same rate as you’re playing them so there is a possibility of an auto win right there. Overall, Deathstalker Rexxar is still in my top 3 death knights.
Frost Lich Jaina
However, not all hero cards are good and Frost Lich Jaina is among the worst ones. When this card was spoiled for the first time it looked super powerful and people were rallying behind it but nowadays it is nonperforming and I don’t think that things will get better for Frost Lich Jaina. The main problem with this card is that while elemental mage is a cool idea the deck itself is not a very powerful one. Yes, like with any deck, games can be won with it and sometimes it will over-preform but there are simply far better choice for a mage to take, especially in the wild format where you have two extremely powerful mage decks, tempo mage and freeze mage.
The card itself isn’t terrible. It gives you some armor, just like every other death knight, and it immediately places a minion on your side of the board but the hero power is not very good unless you can be absolutely sure that, without a shadow of a doubt, you will kill your opponent’s minion with it which is something that happens less often than you might think. Besides, there are really no special elemental minions in the wild format, other than Ragnaros the Firelord, that you can’t play in the standard format. If there were some more powerful, wild exclusive, elemental minions then maybe Frost Lich Jaina would have been a better card but right now I don’t see it seeing play anywhere.
Uther of the Ebon Blade
Well me, Uther of the Ebon Blade and welcome to the wild format! Ok, this hero is an absolute beast.
Paladin has, in my mind, always been the second absolute best control class in the entire game (the first is warrior, for obvious reasons). Although there are many different paladin decks and the strict end game control deck hasn’t been at the top of the meta for a while, we can’t deny the absurd power of a lot of paladin late game cards like Tirion Fordring, Lay on Hands, Ragnaros, Lightlord and now Uther of the Ebon Blade. All of these cards are absolute powerhouses in a control deck and Uther of the Ebon Blade is survivability incarnate, let’s break this guy down!
First and foremost, Uther of the Ebon Blade provides you with 5 armor just like every other death knight. Fine, instant survivability is always a great thing but why am I pointing this out when every other death knight has it? Because Uther of the Ebon Blade also gets a 5/3 weapon with lifesteal. Just imagine it. A 5/3 weapon, with lifesteal, atop the 5 armor that it gets when you play it and, in some cases, you get to attack immediately. That is a 10 HP recovery on the spot with another 10 coming in two turns. Oh, and let’s not forget that you’re hitting your opponent for 15 points of damage. In summary, we’re talking about a 35 point swing, over the course of 3 turns, with just one card. Now that is brutal.
The second and less exciting aspect of Uther of the Ebon Blade is its hero power. Sure, you get to create a 2/2 minion for 2 and if you, by some divine miracle, get four of those minions on the board you will win the game instantly. Why is this a good hero power? Because you’re not just creating a threat every time that you use your hero power but you’re creating a threat that your opponent MUST ANSWER or else they run a risk of losing the game. If they can’t kill you fast enough then they will have no choice but to have to keep answering a horseman after horseman or else they might just lose to them. You might not win a game through the horseman…well, ever…but they do provide a powerful pressure and a huge threat for your opponent to deal with.
So, in summary, how does Uther of the Ebon Blade stand in the wild format? Pretty good, if I do say so myself. Uther of the Ebon Blade is very, very much like Malfurion the Pestilent in a way that both of them are a strict upgrade of the basic hero. If you’re running a slower paladin deck then there is absolutely no reason for you not to include Uther of the Ebon Blade in it. You don’t need to build a deck around it for it to be powerful and provide you with a ton of value. You just play it, get immediate value and then get more recovery over the next two turns while either hitting your opponent in the face or removing their minions. All the while you’re constantly creating horseman that can end the game on the spot. There is little to no reason for you not to run Uther of the Ebon Blade and if you’re looking for a deck recommendation from me and you’re not too much into the whole super late game control deck style of play then I strongly recommend sticking Uther of the Ebon Blade in an anyfin deck because it provides you with the much needed survivability and you can also put it into a midrange paladin deck because it is a strong card. I have tried to play it in a secret paladin deck but I had little to no success with it, mostly because secret paladin is more of a offensive deck which tends to end the game by turn 7 and a 9 cost card, regardless of the value that it can provide you with, is a bit too slow for such a deck. Overall, Uther of the Ebon Blade is an amazing death knight and I strongly recommend that you craft it if you’re a fan of the paladin class.
We’ve reached the end of another installment of ”Running Wild” and the first part of this list. As I’ve mentioned at the start of this article and in the previous one, articles like this are huge in length but also, more importantly, time consuming and I just have to split them into two parts if I want them to come out good. I’m sorry it this is annoying anyone out there who is reading this but I’m currently in a position where I’m trying to balance settling in a different country and creating content for all of you, especially when I’ve missed out on the entire preview season, so I’m doing the best with what I’ve got. Regardless, I hope that you’re continuing to enjoy the articles that I’m writing for you and that you’re having a blast while playing the wild format. Unlike with the previous article this time you won’t have to wait too long because part 2 is coming out tomorrow and part 2 of the previous article should come out by the end of the month. Again, sorry for splitting them and for the delay in schedule.
So, what to you think about the new hero cards? Do you have your own ideas for improving the hero mechanic? Which death knights are your favorite and with which ones have you had the most success? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to drop by next time when I’ll be covering the rest of the death knigts 😀 As always if you’ve liked this article do consider following me on twitter https://twitter.com/Eternal_HS. There you can ask me all sorts of Hearthstone questions (unrelated to this article) and I’ll gladly answer them as best as I can!