So it's finally a thing. After years of seeing the same basic and classic cards over and over we finally have the reveal of our new core set that may or may not make us clinically depressed for the next year and because I am incredibly bored and need attention you will now be subjected to my half baked takes on how all this plays out.
Basically I'll just go through every class and highlight the most relevant changes and give an overall impression. Some will be more detailed than other based on personal experience.
The DH core set looks very solid overall. They just took the most basic cards that have proven to be reasonably balanced and got rid of all the absurd stuff. Kor'vas Bloodthorn is a great addition that really helps flesh out DH's unique playstyle of healing through aggression instead of defense. She's basically Pen Flinger with heals.
Gan'arg Glaivesmith feels like a filler card by comparison. Tempo cards with outcast that are practically unplayable without it usually don't fare well, but I might just be wrong on that.
Illidari Inquisitor is the standout card in this set though. It's effectively a win condition for Big Demon DH that can break through taunts and hit face on the same turn. It might just be the solid foundation the deck needed to...well...actually be a deck that can close out a game. Really, i'm just hoping I get to use best girl Priestess of Fury again in a deck.
Warglaives of Azzinoth make a return (poached from the Outland set, as are a few others, presumably to even out the amount of cards now that DH has caught up with other classes), rebalanced and probably playable again. Probably a good idea, given how iconic the things are.
As for the removed cards, a few are rather saddening. While Twin Slice was way too good anyways, it's removal alongside Blade Dance essentially marks the end for Soul Demon Hunter (a deck which I only now started to play, promptly hit Legend with and found myself actually enjoying despite my disdain for the DH class as a whole). Wrathscale Naga and Command the Illidari also leave together with Nethrandamus. MAybe now Token DH can get some actual support. They certainly seem to be keeping it around. Wrathspike Brute, Hulking Overfiend and Raging Felscreamer will be missed for Big Demons, but I assume they'll get some suitable replacements.
Altruis the Outcast can go eat a dick in Wild now. He's not even that strong anymore and I still hate him more than any other card in DH's arsenal so I'm glad he's going away for a long time. Same goes for Mana Burn.
Overall DH looks to be starting from a much less overwhelming base this time. The class still has plent of good cards left in the core set as well as the past year so I'm not worried about their playability. Really, at worst they'll have to do something other than just aiming for face like they're cocaine-fueled Hunters.
The most striking change here is the complete removal of Savage Roar. This might mark a change in how Token Druid decks are going to be played from now on (as in going wide against a non-aoe class on turn 3 isn't an instant win anymore).The other big change is the complete removal of any damage spells, both burn and removal. They weren't kidding when they said Druids will have to remove through attack buffs from now on. I do wonder what this means going forward, but perhaps it's just something they're testing for the year of the Gryphon anyways. Bogbeam and Lunar Eclipse are still around, so I guess that should help if things go to shit.
Nordrassil Druid looks like a staple for Druid decks from now on. It's a great way to maintain board presence while ramping, drawing or just doing whatever you feel like doing with your spells.
Menagerie Warden at 5 seems very dangerous and is a very storng baseline for a Beast midrange deck (note that Beasts summoned by Guardian Animals have Rush that will also be copied by her). The fact that Druid of the Claw also got a pretty significant buff makes me happy for nostalgia's sake. Buffing Cenarius to 8 mana also certainly helps his viability in ramp decks. I am sad to report that Ancient of Lore never received the revert he deserved. I gues Classic Mode will take care of that.
Seeing how this is my main class I have quite a lot to say here.
Hunter probably received some of the biggest changes (and rightfully so, their previous core set was a complete mess). A few notable removals include staples like Houndmaster, Animal Companion, Kill Command and Eaglehorn Bow. The lowest common denominator here is the fact that these cards essentially monopolized their respective mana slots and usually beat out most new additions, so I'm far from sad to see them go. While the iconic Huffer lethal won't happen anymore i'm still happy that I won't have to roll a 1 in 3 everytime I play that thing on curve. Unleash the Hounds and Tundra Rhino got yeeted unsurprisingly, as did Starving Buzzard who they didn't bother to rework which I think is somewhat missed potential.
The rest of the removed cards are all the useless junk nobody plays or remembers. Nothing of value was lost there (although no longer being able to discover Snipe or Misdirection is somewhat disappointing, but hey, at least we get to play around cards that people actually put in their deck for a change)
The new additions are mostly old reliables. Quick Shot, Webspinner and a new and improved Lock and Load all fit perfectly. Bearshark makes for a suitable 3-drop to replace companion and Headhunter's Hatchet is...not as good as Eaglehorn, but still better than nothing.
The most puzzling addition is Dire Frenzy and the new Selective Breeder. The former being a rather memey card that never really took off the way it needed to and the latter being...really slow for what is supposed to be a midrange class. I can only assume these cards were designed with new expansions in mind.
Savannah Highmane was a no-brainer, but King Krush is honestly a surprise, if not a welcome one. While I doubt that Hunter will slow down enough to need a 9-mana 8-damage finisher (which, btw, the new Alexstrasza does better anyways, but more on that later) it gives hope for a return (or reimagining) of Big Hunter, which was last seen during the year of the Raven.
Tracking also got seeminly reworked to no longer discard the other 2 cards, which is good for any Hunter player who actually likes to play with their cards instead of the opponent's life total.
Overall there seems to be a very strong directional shift for Hunter. Their Burst is almost entirely gone (or rather, is way more expensive now) while their overall consistency has been improved significantly. Lock and Load returning means spells based Hunter decks have far more longevity now while Midrange Beast decks will probably have to slow down and play with ressources rather than lethal range.
I personally like the presumed new direction, but it does mean that Hunter is now (or at least for this year) relying almost entirely on expansions to give them directions. If Spell and Beast support is insufficient then the entire class fails because going aggro is no longer an option (at least if you're planning to actually win)
Mage is...weird. They lost a lot of really important cards like Kirin Tor Mage and Frostbolt. They also lost most of their functional stalling tools with Blizzard and Frost Nova (although Cone of Cold got buffed into playability). Flamestrike got buffed back into relevance, but it might still be just too expensive for the modern meta.
Arcanologist and Babbling Book are good base cards for just about every deck, Ethereal Conjurer, despite the stat buff, comes off as a wasted slot. The new mage doesn't look like they'll be great at leveraging tempo and if I needed a 5-mana spell discovery I'd just pick Steward of Scrolls
An interesting change is the inclusion of Fallen Hero and Coldarra Drake indicating a return to Hero Power Mage. Without further support both of those cards are unimpressive however.
Every other removal was predictable. Sorcerer's Apprentice and Archmage Antonidas have dodged the chopping block for too long anyways, Arcane Missiles was unreliable highrolling garbage and Arcane Explosion gets substituted by the much more interesting Shooting Star.
Snap Freeze makes me hope that Freeze Mage (reimagined) will make a return through future support, seeing how most of the other frost cards are leaving.
Aegwynn, the Guardian is certainly...unexpected. Her effect is essentially a permanent +2 spell damage as long as you still have minions in your deck. the fact that it can transfer to something as small as a 1/1 has some serious implications for swing turns, especially given the amount of spell damage synergy still in Standard. The only issue is that she's really slow and prone to removal while being too clunky to be used as a standalone spell damage booster (especially compared to Imprisoned Phoenix). At least we won't have to craft her to find out how terrible she is.
Overall Mage is kind of a wildcard. Burn is still on the table but limited to Fireball (and whatever new spells we get), while Control doesn't seem part of the core identity in a major way anymore (you still have ways to clear the board, but way less time to get there).
Hero Power Mage, at the very least, seems to be going somewhere. They wouldn't bring Coldarra Drake back if there wasn't a major payoff.
By the holy light. Paladin seems to be going somewhere for a change. It's no secret that Paladin had one of the worst base sets of any class, perhaps only trumped by how poorly Warlock's has aged over the years (and at least those guys have Flame Imp).
Basically all the major junk has been cut and I can't tell you how pretty it looks. No more useless Hammers, Wraths or Blessings. Even Holy Light got upped to a fat 8 meaning that it's now a serious considerations for decks that wish to stay healthy.
ON the more surprising side, Avenge, an infamously powerful secret, has made its return. Back in the day a Paladin with more than one minion was considered a lethal threat...now it's probably just good enough. In addition to that, a new secret, Reckoning, has been added. I like the idea seeing how Paladin really lacks the ability to effectively remove singular big threats so this should be a good fallback option to keep those kind of cards in check. If everything fails, you can always bonk it with the good old Truesilver Champion.
In a very uenxpected twist, Paladin got one of the most interesting buildarounds added to its core set. Pursuit of Justice turns the Paladin hero power from "I guess it's better than nothing" to an actual win condition that scales into the midgame. With our new Divine Shield enthusiast from Darkmoon Faire you can turn your 2-mana Wisps into Scarlet Crusaders (which is good because Scarlet Crusader isn't around anymore). Whether or not Dude Paladin will finally work out as a midrange deck remains to be seen, but at least now we have a reason to play it.
Oh and Guardian of Kings got buffed into actual viability. He's not insane, but he does his job when you need him to.
Paladin probably got the most generous buffs by losing practically nothing and gaining a whole bunch of something. On the flipside, they are now dependant on expansion based card draw more than ever because they got nothing in their core set.
Priest kinda got shafted, I'll just say it outright. Aside from most of the rather mediocre cards from the last update staying around they got the unimaginably boring Crimson Clergy who might as well be a vanilla 1/3 because you're sure not getting anywhere by trying to buff him up. It stands to argue whether they shouuld have just made Lightwarden a Priest card instead.
Focused Will is a rather nightmarish vision of the future, seeing how Silence Priest has never been an actual deck for a variety of reasons. Humongous Razorleaf in the neutral pool doesn't really help either.
Thrive in the Shadows is perhaps the best new addition as an actual targetted cycle option, especially in combination with the new Shadowform which apparently no longer gives you a two stage upgrade, meaning you probably don't want to run more than one in your deck, and the aforementioned Thrive will help you find it in due time.
Shadowed Spirit exists. I'm assuming Shadow Priest will get some more support down the line. As it stands he's just sort of there being supportive.
For some forsaken reason Lightspawn hasn't been thrown in the dumpster. A buff to 3-mana and 4 health probably won't change how unwieldy the guy is, and the removal of [Hearthstone Card (Circle of Light) Not Found] certainly doesn't make things easier. The only upside is that with the removal of Inner Fire this glowing turd is the only card that actually represents a threat when buffed with health so maybe he'll be around out of obligation.
Natalie Seline stuck around. I don't know why, she's not the kind of card you ever want to run, but I suppose that applies to most of the new core legendaries.
Shadow Word: Pain was removed, presumably due to having become obsolete in the fact of better ways to deal with low attack minions. Cabal Shadow Priest also left. Good. Never liked her anyways.
Thoughtsteal and Shadow Madness were apparently deemed unworthy. Maybe Priests now finally get to play with their own cards for a change.
Overall I have no idea where Priest is going, but at the very least resurrection doesn't seem to be a core mechanic and I feel like that improves the game as a whole.
Eviscerate and Sap are gone. I'm pretty sure that's the biggest change the class has received in....well ever...and it's also what you can accurately point to if Rogue, for the first time in Hearthstone's history ends up as a genuinely bad class (not saying that will happen, but if anything it would happen now).
To compensate for the sudden lack of flexible removal we get...Plague Scientist and Patient Assassin. I would say it could be worse, but I don't think that's possible. At least Assassinate is playable.
[Hearthstone Card (Swashburgler) Not Found] was an all time favourite, and [Hearthstone Card (Blade Cultist) Not Found], while pretty useless during his initial appearance, at least makes sense with the current Rogue Playstyle.
Vanessa VanCleef is a wildcard. If there'S some burgle synergy she can be absolutely nuts by giving you very specific cards and forcing opponents to constantly watch which card they play last...but without burgle support she's too mundane to actually put in a deck.
On a more positive note, Tomb Pillager was an amazing card and has certainly aged well and the new Assassin's Blade is perfect for weapon buffing strategies (even if it is most likely going to remain overshadowed by Self-Sharpening Sword)
Overall Rogue can no longer rely on just having one of the best few core cards and an extremely adaptable playstyle...they actually need good cards now...what a tragedy, I know.
It's acutally kind of baffling how much garbage there is in the Rogue base set. They really got carried by just a handful of really good cards for quite a long time.
"But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all"
I might be pessimistic here, but Shaman really doesn't seem to notably change. Most of the unplayable junk got rightfully axed, Lightning Storm is now an actual card and a few of the Overload cards are no longer stupidly overbalanced and Draenei Totemcarver is here to remind you that she needs a 1-cost Hero Power to be anywhere close to playable.
The only notable addition is Tidal Surge because it finally gives some basic healing to Shaman so they no longer exclusively rely on whatever gimmick the first expansion of the year throws at them.
What really bothers me is the removal of both Bloodlust and Lava Burst. Essentially, your finishers are now limited to Doomhammer or Windlord shenanigans, the latter of which got buffed by an astounding 1 health, surely making him a force to be reckoned with and a true terror when combined with the infamous Crazed Alchemist tech (heavy sarcasm is implied).
The fact that Windfury sticks around leads me to believe that we might be going into the direction of midrange Shaman that establishes a fat beater and then doubletaps you for lethal
Oh and Spell Damage Totem got replaced by Strength Totem which completely fucks up the 4 elements theme without actually improving anything (you could have at least called it Fartwind Totem or something you dickweeds).
Eternal rival of Paladin in the category of having the worst base set...apprently felt really nostalgic because they didn't get much better.
While proven veterans like Possessed Villager and a buffed Drain Soul are certainly a welcome sight, others are not so much.
For one, removing both Voidwalker and Soulfire seriously cripples the baseline that made Zoo the reliable fallback whenever the janky control builds didn't work out.
Tiny Knight of Evil and Lakkari Felhound are just kind of strange. Granted, the buff to Felhound makes it a lot more predictable but I doubt Discolock will ever be worth playing, even with further support (and I played a lot of Discolock during Rumble).
For some godforsaken reason that I can only interpret as a practical joke Fiendish Circle has made its grand return, ignoring the fact that it was hilariously pointless even in the super low power Witchwood expansion and is basically just a 4 mana 4/4 making it much worse than the similarly returning Grim Necromancer...which is a neutral. The only payoff so far is the new Ritual of Doom, which, admittedly, is a pretty strong card, although I'd be hesitant to call it good enough to warrant including Circle.
Additionally, Dread Infernal insisted on sticking around despite being one of the most pointless things since Freeze Shaman
Felsoul Jailer is a card that exists to piss of your opponent. It probably does that well so I'll let it slide.
Enslaved Fel Lord is a tiny ray of hope for a return to grindy big demon Warlock. It works well with a lot of existing cards and indicates that this archetype will get much more support which is good news.
Everyone's favourite Eredar Lord of the Burning Legion Lord Jaraxxus also got a makeover. Unfortunately you can't fix chronic 9-mana disease so despite the fortunate removal of the 15 HP limit he might still be a tad too slow considering that you can't even hero power the same turn you play him. Maybe Strongman can alleviate those problems.
Oh yeah Void Terror is still here and Nerubian Egg is back, so maybe that will fix Zoo.
At this point I'm getting very much tired of writing and Warrior has never been a favourite of mine so I'll make this short: Barely anything has changed. Brawl is still around (please fucking kill me), so is Shield Slam, Armorsmith, Whirlwind and Execute, meaning Control Warrior won't change because why start now. The only real loss is Shield Block (which just means we'll get different ways to gain armor and draw) and Battle Rage. Losing Inner Rage hurts combo builds, but since Bloodsworn Mercenary is rotating anways we're just back to square one.
OUt of all the cards you wouldn't have expected to stick around, Warsong Commander did...and now she'S actually good. Being a 3-mana Houndmaster Shaw is nothing to be laughed at. We'll probably seeing her a lot more. What a redemption arc.
As for new cards: Shieldmaiden is a nice throwback but probably too slow, War Cache just exists in case you need more cards, Warsong Outrider is actually pretty good for being essentially just a beefed up vanilla.
Only Bloodsail Deckhand sticks out by being just a really good card in general (2-mana Fiery War Axe is back baby) and making me think unclean thoughts.
Warrior just generally seems unaffected. It lost the most janky cards and gained only very basic stuff. I was personally hoping for a replacement of Brawl but I guess that'll have to wait until next year. The only real change is that they now completely lack reliable draw in the core set meaning future decks will depend highly on their available draw options.
There's not that much to say about the vast majority. It all comes down to three categories:
-vanilla stats for reference
-tribal and mechanical support
A few odd outliers like Young Priestess and Voodoo Doctor snuck in there for reasons unknown. Also Bloodfen Raptor got yeeted but [Hearthstone Card (River Crokolisk) Not Found] stuck around. I'm assuming that's because we'll get some 3/2 powercreep beast somewhere down the line, but it still feels wrong to tear the two apart...they're like best friends...in that they both never get out of the collection.
There are also some unexpected remnants like King Mukla and Gurubashi Berserker.
More exciting are some of the returning cards like Stoneskin Basilisk (dangerous in a world where Rush is much more easily applied), Clockwork Giant (seeing how all the giants are OP in one way or another, picking the worst one was probably a good choice) and Baron Rivendare (who probably goes great with the similarly returning Nerubian Egg)
For some reason Barrens Stablehand stuck around. I guess some people just want to pay 7 aman for their Stonetusk Boar.
There are a few other returners and some stat buffs but none of them really seemed that relevant to me (except for maybe Big Game Hunter who at 4-mana is a lot more relevant for classes without access to efficient single target removals, e. g. Paladin)
Regarding the new legendaries, here's a quick roundup:
Overlord Runthak looks underwhelming, but at the very least allows handbuff strategies to have a centerpiece.
Taelan Fordring is puzzling, but could be interesting in decks that look for very specific minions. It's certainly playable if the payoff is good.
Nozdormu the Eternal is the giga meme
[Hearthstone Card (Alexstrasza the Lifebinder) Not Found] is a good finisher for control decks that need one...but will only be relevant if nothing better is available.
Malygos the Spellweaver is usefull in certain classes, but probably nothing worth worrying about....no deck has ever been able to really shit all over you by ramping to 10 and then vomiting spells, right?
Onyxia the Broodmother is actually good if you get to her and they opponent is out of big removals. Otherwise she's just filler.
Ysera the Dreamer is legitimately powerful and shouldn't be underestimated. She's a lot of ressources wrapped into a single card, meaning that any control deck that has space for her will probably run her until she gets outclassed.
Deathwing is just a better version of his former self, I won't even spell out his whole name, that's how boring he is.
Oh and btw Gadgetzan Auctioneer is still around, so have fun with that.
Regarding the rotating neutrals, only Sea Giant, Harrison Jones, Captain Greenskin and Twilight Drake really stick out. NOne of these cards are really essential for any deck so I doubt they'll be missed.
Only Questing Adventurer really stings for Rogue, but then again, those fuckers had it way too good for way too long.
Oh and rest in peace Silverback Patriarch. You carried the game for too long, it's time to rest.
So that's basically my take on the whole thing. Overall I'm pretty happy with how they decided to handle things even though there are some questionable choices (which may be explained once we see the rest of the expansions). In any case, if things go really wrong and cards just don't work like they're supposed to they can always nerf or buff them at will and won't have to worry about refunds.
Anyways, I did my thing, got it off my mind, now you get to sift through all this bullshit and tell me if I actually made sense at all.
I tried having fun once.
It was awful.
On the whole I agree with you, and frankly I welcome a major shake-up whichever way it goes. I play Wild and can mess around in Classic too, so there's really nothing much for me to miss.
I'm glad you discussed what was removed as well as what was changed/added, because that probably says more. A notable, yet easily missed feature was the complete removal of AoE from both druid and rogue. Granted, their options were weak to begin with, but I was surprised Blizz went as far as to give them absolutely nothing outside neutral.
On a related note, neutral card draw took a hit, which might weigh heavy on some of the classes whose own card draw didn't fare any better. It won't bother druid and rogue at least, so I guess it evens out.
Overall, we can be pretty sure the concept of class identity is alive and kicking in Hearthstone.
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