Whenever a new expansion is on the horizon, it seems like playing Hearthstone loses all excitement. Instead, everybody is busy counting down the days until new content is released. The circle of excitement to stale meta to new cards is simply the cycle of Hearthstone, but new cards sure are fun to examine, and difficult to predict. Especially when the new expansion is the darkest one seen yet with death being the theme, killing off all of our favorite heroes to create the new hero card. Blizzard was very creative with creation of Knights of the Frozen Throne, but let's try to make sense of it all anyways by looking at some of the biggest cards from each class.
As a class that currently has two different archetypes of decks in the tier 1 rankings, Druid didn't need much help. Whether Jade, Token or ever the growing in popularity Big Druid, Malfurion has been a staple in competitive play. This expansion saw Blizzard push to bring back good old Taunt Druid in a very underwhelming fashion that ultimately hurt their card pool. However, there were some diamonds in the rough to salvage the set for Druids.
Malfurion the Pestilent
Hero power: Choose one: +3 attack this turn, or gain 3 armor.
This card is very powerful for more than one reason. The main one being the lack of respect for how powerful the 'Choose One' and poisonous mechanics both are. At the very least, this card is 7 mana 15 health (with armor and taunts) and gives you a bonkers hero power for the remainder of the game. The fact that you can play this as early as turn 2 with the right draws of double Innervate and coin (something that Druids do with some annoying consistency), and not have to sacrifice board presence will help this card find a way in all slow Druid decks.
Referencing the failed attempt by Blizzard to make Taunt Druid a valid competitive deck, this legendary falls flat. People liked to compare it as the "N'Zoth of Taunts," but the two couldn't be more different as Hadronox's effect comes as a Deathrattle that can be silenced, while N'Zoth gives you immediate effect as a Battlecry. The effect is strong, but it ultimately is a "9 mana do nothing" until you are able to chip down the annoying high seven health.
Just when you thought that infinite Jade Idols was late game enough, Druids gain an ultimate value card to reset the board and their hand in their favor. This card comes as a godsend since Druids have always been starved for card draw. Ultimate Infestation will give Druid players the comfort of using Nourish early for ramp, knowing they have this card for late game. As much hype as this card has received, 10 mana cards still don't see much play and can fall flat against a wide board. I predict you will see this as a one-of in Jade and Big Druid decks.
Verdict: Very Good
Hunter is a class that desperately needs some help. Poor Rexxar has been getting outpaced by every other class over the last few expansions and hasn't seen a reliable control variant since the Call of the Wild nerf. Hearthstone fans and Blizzard both know that the cards Hunter receive will be under heavy scrutiny based for that very reason. However, Blizzard did nothing for Mr. Rexxar, as the class received the worst set of cards of the expansion in convincing fashion.
Hero Power: Craft a custom Zombeast.
In a vacuum, this card is powerful as it can out-value absolutely any deck in a grindy control matchup, outside of Jade Druid. The hero power can pump a threat out each turn with some wacky beast interactions. However, these days Hunters have struggled to gain any sort of board control by turn 6 and will be overwhelmed with other classes just having straight up better cards. The impact of a single minion each turn is often overshadowed by strong spells, nullifying the appeal committing this much to creating Zombeasts.
We all know how powerful secrets can be. We even know how powerful they are when they are played for free, shoutout Mysterious Challenger and Mad Scientist. However, Prof Putricide fails because it ultimately becomes a 6 drop with minimal upside. Additionally, it's just flat out better to cast all of your secrets for free on turn 3 with Cloaked Huntress.
Let's try to say one positive thing about the new Hunter cards. Corpse Widow is genuinely a good card with an effect that can help a player cheat a curve in a powerful way. It is also a beast with solid stats, allowing it to fit into the Hunter archetypes quite well. The problem is more with Hunter, though. Hunter is rarely ahead on board on turn 5 and even if they are, they risk a lot by playing a card with no instant impact on the turn. Good card, bad class.
Constantly sitting atop the meta with different variants to its name, Mage can match up against any deck in multiple ways. With Secret and Freeze Mage both being a viable competitive decks, the class is always interested to see the new spells they can slide right into those existing archetypes. While KotFT was an underwhelming expansion for Mage, they seem to always find a way to benefit off of new spells anyways.
Frost Lich Jaina
Hero Power: Deal 1 damage. If this kills a minion, summon a Water Elemental.
One of the most interesting and difficult cards of the set, the Mage Death Knight tries to create an entire new archetype from scratch. First impression was that this card is just flat-out strong. Water Elementals are phenomenal in their own right, making them even stronger with Lifesteal, and pinging a minion down is an easy task. A deck like this can even run minions and spells like Babbling Book and Polymorph to help set themselves with minions to ping down. This card comes to the simple question of is this better than just using that 9 mana for an Alexstrasza to your opponent's face? Mage is just too well rounded right now to get use out of a card like this.
Ignore anybody who said 'Dr. 8' or tried to compare this battlecry to Dr. Boom. Sindragosa is extremely weak for multiple reasons, the main reason being how underwhelming a random legendary can be. Additionally, you have to expend additional mana to kill of your own Frozen Champions with a ping. Mages would always rather prefer Medivh in the 8 slot, or simply two Fireballs to face.
A sneaky powerful card for Mage and one that worries me very much. Why? Because this card is perfect for a Quest Mage deck in how it provides a designated spell with a defensive effect. Quest Mage becoming viable would be very bad for Hearthstone as it is a straight up one turn kill deck. A 2/6 body is also very powerful when paired with the hero power. Look out for this one.
After Paladin surprisingly emerged as the strongest class out of the Un'Goro expansion, Blizzard seems to be favoring Uther again with the cards in KotFT. Pushing the Divine Shield archetype more, Paladin only received more tools to use in deceptive fashion, similar to the impact Hydrologist made last year.
Uther of the Ebon Blade
Hero Power: Summon a 2/2 Horseman. If you have all four, destroy the enemy hero.
The shocking part of this card is that Blizzard introduced an alternate win condition with the Four Horsemen, a la Exodia the Forbidden One of Yu-Gi-Oh fame. After settling down and realizing how hard it would be to have four 2/2s occupy the board at the same time, the card feels more average in power level. The win condition can be ignored because you're most likely in a great position to win the game already if you've set up these Horseman. Paladins already have so much strength at the top of their curve, often times already holding a 5/3 weapon that they received from Tirion. The lifesteal on the weapon is very strong, but Paladin is also a class that has no trouble healing.
Initially this card seems like the ultimate end game card for a Divine Shield deck in which you pop as many bubbles as you can to feed Bolvar. Putting more thought into it, you realize that this card it just good in any Paladin deck that involves Divine Shields, which ends up being most decks. Especially with the new smaller Divine Shield minions introduced in the expansion, it is easy to see Bolvar as a 5 mana 7/7 with Divine Shield. However, it has yet to be confirmed whether or not this effect only trigger whiles on board, in which case the card loses a ton of value.
Verdict: Very Good (depending on clarification of effect)
Do not underestimate the power of a 1 mana minion. This card is no Patches (hopefully no card ever will be like Patches again), but Righteous Protector is still extremely strong. As an upgraded Argent Squire, this card can grab value trades early on as well as become a wall in the late game. Expect to see this card early and often.
Another class due for some quality cards, Priest has been sitting on the fringes of competitive play for a while now. After Dragon Priest's rise and fall from stardom, Purify and Lyra Priest archetypes seemed to be the only chance for Anduin to see competitive play. In an expansion where healing is widely available, Priest is in need of something to set them apart.
Hero Power: Deal 2 damage. After you play a card, refresh this.
Truly embracing the shadows now, Anduin lets out one massive Shadow Word: Death and becomes the aggressor. The Battlecry is nice, but rarely do we see multiple minions on the other side of the board with 5+ attack, outside of Jade Golems. Usually the two Shadow Word: Deaths that have become a staple in Priest decks are plenty. We have seen the refresh mechanic on a hero power before and it was just too clunky to fit in a mana curve. The only way this sees play is with some Raza shenanigans, which would be tough to pull off.
Can Blizzard really do this? Yes. Yes, they can. Definitely the most insane effect in Hearthstone yet, this card will be a meme dream. This will never make it into competitive play, but would be super fun if only for the shenanigans that would ensue. Yes, it would work well in a fatigue matchup, but getting 15 random cards shuffled into your deck can destroy any synergy your deck once had.
The power level of this card it obvious. Lifesteal and Taunt are a deadly combo and the Deathrattle is perfect, synergizing with the Ressurect Priest that continues to be fed more cards. The difficult part for priest is getting to turn 9 intact and then being able to invest your entire turn to a single minion. We should see the meta slow down with the abundance of healing introduced, and this card could give Priests the top end threat they desperately need.
Verdict: Very Good
Seemingly always finding a way to stay relevant in competitive play, Rogue is perhaps the most skill-reliant class in Hearthstone. After the Quest Rogue nerf, Miracle Rogue is the top archetype (wait is it 2014 again?) and can take otherwise underwhelming cards and make great use out of them, like Razorpetal Thrasher. Overall, KotFT didn't do much to help Rogue on the surface, but Valeera is a very sneaky girl when it comes to creativity with cards.
Valeera the Hollow
Passive Hero Power: During your turn, add a "Shadow Reflection" to your hand.
Definitely the most complex and difficult to read card in the new expansion, this death knight gives Rogue an unique ability to grind out control games. Additionally, the ability to string together combos is made much easier with the card, but can Rogue really commit an entire turn to gaining this hero power? We'll let the dedicated Rogue players figure it out.
As much as Blizzard wants Burgle Rogue to happen, the variance of gaining random spells is just far too unpredictable. Lilian Voss can create some big value as it can turn preps and coins into huge spells as it leads right into Ethereal Peddler, but is still just too risky. Stick to Miracle Rogue and make the most out of the Rogue spells in the deck.
When lifesteal was announced as a mechanic, a card like Leeching Poison was one that the community predicted, as Blizzard prints a Rogue weapon buff in every expansion. Rogue is in desperate need of healing, but this card will not be able to fill the void as there is no weapon strong and sturdy enough to gain much value from it.
It seems like a long long time ago that Shaman was ridiculed as the laughing stock of Hearthstone classes. Since the release of Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem, however, Shaman has been one of the best classes in the game, even after the aforementioned cards rotated out. Instead of feeding the already strong archetypes, Blizzard chose to try to make a new build in Freeze Shaman with KofFT.
Hero Power: Transform a friendly minion into a random one that costs (1) more.
It is easy to argue that Evolve Shaman is the best deck in the game right now. The new Shaman Death Knight takes that another level by doubling down on the evolution. However, the actual strength from the deck comes from the ability to pump out tokens and turn them into threats with Evolve and Bloodlust. Losing the totem Hero Power is detrimental to that plan and prevents Shamans from having the constant stream of tokens as it struggles with card draw.
This is just a straight up strong card. We have seen how powerful a 2/7 body on a 5 mana taunt can be with Alley Armorsmith and the fact that it can Freeze minions and characters makes it into an absolute wall against aggro decks. This may not help Freeze Shaman become viable, but it can fit into any slower Shaman deck.
Verdict: Very Good
Rarely will a Shaman deck overload enough to make this card as playable as Arcane Giants are in other decks. What is especially interesting about this card is the fact that it is the first 11 cost minion in Hearthstone. Now damaged 10 drops can be evolved, a sneaky buff to Sea Giants in Evolve Shaman. This card simply loses value since Overload cards have become less popular lately as Shamans simply have other overpowered cards that don't have to deal with the overload drawback.
Along with Hunter, Warlock was another class in desperate for some new cards. Warlock has been completely absent from competitive play ever since Reno Jackson rotated out and Zoo was overrun by pirates. Currently without any archetype even close to Tier 1, Gul'dan just wants some powerful cards. KotFT tried to help a little, but it will take some serious creativity to help Warlock get back to its glory day.
Hero Power: Lifesteal: Deal 3 damage.
First things first, this is easily the strongest Hero Power out of all of the Death Knights. The fact that you can get a 6 health swing for 2 mana every turn is insane. However, Warlocks currently struggle to even live past turn 7, so being able to cast a 10 mana card is a pretty farfetched idea right now. The Battlecry is negligible as of now since demons tanked in popularity. Warlock will need some defensive demon help before this card can be as strong as it should be, but the Hero Power alone will encourage people to at least give it a shot.
This card is beautiful. Looking at the meta today, it seems like nearly all decks have minions that ladder up in health perfectly for Defile to take advantage of. Not only that, but this card is great because it is a phenomenal example of high skill cards that Blizzard prints. Skilled players will be setting up for Defile multiple turns in advance in order to clear the board perfectly. Control Warlock will need more help than just this card, but it is a great start.
This card will not be good at all in competitive play, unless your goal is to anger your opponent so much that they rage quits. Discarding a card from your opponent's deck does nothing to benefit you other than know that a single copy of a card is no longer available to them. However, I wanted to highlight this card because it breaks one of the golden rules of Hearthstone: no discard effects with your opponents cards. Not a known rule, but something Blizzard has been outspokenly against in the past. This card could be a test for them to see if the mechanic can fit into the game.
We are very much used to Taunt Warrior and Pirate Warrior both running the meta, with neither being particularly enjoyable to play against, either. People have been waiting for Control Warrior to make its way back into the game ever since Justicar Trueheart rotated out, but no replacement has been seen yet. Blizzard instead tried to introduce Whirlwind/Enrage Warrior in KotFT, but ultimately they simply printed some powerful cards to be used creativity in many different archetypes.
Hero Power: Deal 1 damage to all minions.
The Death Knight for Warrior was highly anticipated because it seems like the class best fitted for a DK. It has no problem surviving late, but it frequently lacks a method for closing out wins. Unfortunately, fans were underwhelmed with the finished product, and understandably so. Outside of this mythical Whirlwind Warrior, the Hero Power is just weak. One damage to minions on Turn 10 and later has very little impact on the board. The weapon is incredible, but is it worth 8 mana and abandoning armor gain? Not in the current state of Hearthstone.
In stark contrast to the above Hero Power, this is a whirlwind effect that is worth it. First impression is that this card shows off just how powerful Death's Bite once was. On closer look, this card is a great tool for Control Warriors to take care of a small, annoying boards that currently flood the meta. Slow Warrior decks currently have no weapon between Fiery War Axe and the rarely scene Gorehowl, allowing this to slot in nicely.
Verdict: Very Good
Bring It On!
Hearing all sort of card reviews, this is one of the most debated cards of the set. Some people say that it is incredible for Control Warrior because you want your opponents to play minions so you can Brawl them down. However, other players, myself included, point out that there truly is no benefit in having your opponent's minions cost less. The life gain is nice, but I would always feel more comfortable with a Shield Block for an extra mana. With the amount of debate around the card though, it will see some play. Mainly because people desperately want Control Warrior to be back to combat other pesky decks on the ladder.
After looking at all of the class cards, we'd be remiss to leave without first taking a look at a few of the best neutral cards to see how they will fit in with the emerging meta upon the release of KotFT.
The Lich King
Finally, the card everybody has been waiting for, the Lich King himself! This card's effect is comparable to Ysera, but with a much more dark twist. Some of the cards it can produce are extremely powerful, however some cards that can be summoned have some extreme downside in the late game. This card will see play because of the sheer hype and excitement surrounding it. But my bold prediction is that this card will not be seen in competitive play at all after it loses its glamour. The cards just have too much of a variation on when it is good or bad, not to mention that an 8 mana 8/8 taunt just isn't worth it. Nonetheless, prepare to see this in every deck for the first couple weeks.
Bonemare is easily the best arena card released in the set, which is absolutely terrifying given that it is a common. Sure, it will be difficult for it to find a place in a deck as buffs can be clunky since it requires a minion to be on board. But if landed upon even a 1/1, the swing is massive enough to win a game. Look for this to appear in Paladin decks until it is switched out for the more typical top end cards.
What a huge card for Paladin! First off, this situation deck check mechanic is very fun and a great move by Blizzard as it encourages creativity in deck building. Tthis card fits so well in Paladin due to the existence of Wickerflame Burnbristle, which will give it all the named buffs(we don't care about Windfury). Currently, Control Paladins only have weapons or Consecration on turn 4, making this a great option.
Verdict: Very Good
Hear me out on this card... It fits very well into two different archetypes: aggro decks and Evolve Shaman. For aggro, this card is truly a 4 mana 7/7 without the overload or memes. Yes it has a large downside of giving your opponent a 5/5 when the Rascal dies, but in aggro decks you are normally fine if they spend their turn removing a 2/2 from the board while a 5/5 and whatever else you have on board goes straight to your opponent's face. It is tricky and will take testing, but it is worth the shot. Evolve Shamans will finally have a replacement for the awful Dopplegangster to keep the deck afloat.
Saronite Chain Gang
Another sleeper card of the set! Chain Gang is exactly what handbuff decks needed. Handbuff deck experimented in the past failed when it came to establishing a presence on board because it would come as a cost for them to buff their hand. They were put on the back foot and struggled to find a substantial swing turn. This card, however, gives them a large swing turn that can gain them control of the board in a hurry. You hit this with 2 handbuffs, which is extremely likely to happen, and it is a 4 mana "Summon two Sen'jin Shieldmastas" at the very least.
Verdict: Very Good
Blizzard definitely showed off their creativity in Knights of the Frozen Throne as they look to follow up their expansion masterpiece, Journey to Un'Goro. Although they may not have printed too many cards that are just obviously good, the complexity of cards they printed promotes more skills in the scene rather than jamming cards in our faces. We can expect the meta to slow down drastically to start. Aggro decks did not receive any new helpful cards and the Lifesteal mechanic will give class a lot easier access to healing. The top classes of Paladin, Druid, Warrior, Shaman, and Mage should all stay elite, seeing slight shifts to their top archetypes. Warlock and Hunter will still stay in the dumpster, but Priest has a chance to emerge from said dumpster with Rogues floating in the middle.