The Hearthstone tradition of granting us a free card from an upcoming expansion continues! It should already be hiding in your collection, as long as your game client has been updated to the newest patch. This time paving the way is another familiar face - Vol'jin, in his second incarnation. It might be at least a month before the rest of the Barrens set follows suit, so prepare to see a fair share of experiments with a shiny (shadowy?) new toy. And boy, does he have a lot of people excited about his creative potential. 

Shadow Hunter Vol'jin Card Image

The Impact of Phoenix Freebies

Looking back at the current Hearthstone year that is slowly coming to a close, each of the three expansions provided us with one card ahead of time; each with its own unique design. Ashes of Outland brought the infamous Kael'thas Sunstrider, who holds the dubious honor of having been nerfed not once, but twice. Turns out heavy mana cheating can be a problem. Scholomance Academy went the non-legendary route with Transfer Student - fun to play with on different boards and a staple of many a budget deck, but ultimately not consistent or powerful enough to make the cut. And most recently Darkmoon Faire came with the leading man Silas Darkmoon, who found a cozy spot in Libroom Paladin and even birthed a separate OTK Warrior with Soulbound Ashtongue and lots of armor, the favorite of multiple Masters Tour qualifiers of this month. How will Shadow Hunter Vol'jin fare in comparison?

Kael'thas Sunstrider Card ImageTransfer Student Card ImageSilas Darkmoon Card Image

A Long Awaited Savior?

There are quite a few cards and deck archetypes existing currently that many Hearthstone players just love to hate on, or consider them a "tiny" annoyance at best (the kind that makes your blood boil). Cards like Tickatus or Mindrender Illucia, or decks like OTK Demon Hunter and the aforementioned Silas OTK Warrior. It can be quite fun to subject your opponents to their evil effects, and perhaps a little less fun to find yourself on the receiving side - but such is the nature of the game. What people tend to complain about the most is not so much just the existence of such strategies, but rather the lack of tools to answer them effectively. And one card from the past is often being invoked in these scenarios:

Dirty Rat Card Image

The unsung hero, sorely missed. Now we are finally getting something again with a similar effect. It's not quite the same, mind - if your opponent has no minions on the board, you are not going to be able to do much with it. Cards that can spawn useless junk on the enemy's side aren't exactly common or too useful (Magtheridon is perhaps not the best pick here...). The mana cost is pretty substantial too. Plus it's never an easy decision which of the crucial cards in your deck to even replace, nor can you expect to draw your single copy of Vol'jin whenever you might need it most.

Nonetheless, this might lead to some interesting mind games if one player is aware or suspects that the other is running Shadow Hunter Vol'jin just to mess with their win condition. They might choose to hold onto smaller minions they would've otherwise played, or try to bait their opponent into believing they are already holding a crucial piece in hand. The ability to disrupt combos is there, even if it might end up working better in theory than in practice. We can always look forward to precious accidents where somebody missed and ended up pulling out Deathwing, Mad Aspect they got completely no answer to. 

With that in mind, it's worth noting that even hitting the right card (be it Il'gynoth or Mozaki, Master Duelist) means little if you don't have any initiative on the board or the right removal in hand - with enough mana left to use it - or otherwise you might just be doing someone a big favor. It could prove more effective against decks that rely on smaller combo pieces or minions with Battlecry. Great for highlight videos and tales of messing things up. 

Curiously, using Shadow Hunter Vol'jin on an enemy minion when they have got no other minions in hand should give you a Sap effect. Who would have thought a better Kidnapper might be useful? 

But What Could It Do For You?

There is a lot of talk of how to best weaponize Shadow Hunter Vol'jin against other players, yet the card is versatile enough that it could prove very useful in decks that wish to drop huge expensive minions without necessarily paying that honest mana cost. Mana cheating, yay. And if all else fails, there is always that Ancient Brewmaster functionality. Of sorts. 

We all know of that one class specializing in ramping up very quickly (nope, not you, Cheese Paladin) or otherwise gaining temporary mana crystals, and so it has already begun as you can see from threads such as this one

Of course one thing we can take for granted is that there will be one card primarily to try to build around, the fan favorite:

Malygos Card Image

After all, we don't have long in Standard before he gets replaced with an inferior (?) impostor. And the examples of cheaper Maly plus spells are already out there. Many more to come? 

For other avenues, you can fish for style points by cheating out the poor forgotten Gruul, or in more likely scenarios, your Plagued Protodrake, Runaway BlackwingBADCARDNAME, Big Bad Archmage or Scrapyard Colossus. The meme potential is strong with this one, and perhaps some viable strategy might come out of it? If not now, then at a later date.

We will be making sure to highlight and dive deeper into any special Shadow Hunter Vol'jin decks that might arise - for now there aren't many, as players will need some time for their imagination and crazy experiments to bear fruit. If you are interested in a few early examples, Funki Monki had some fun with Rogue, while Hunter has been very popular among the likes of Orange and Sidisi. Our community member Erodos also had a deck to share: 

We will keep you posted if something suddenly starts breaking the meta. 

A Callback To Previous Form 

Just for a bit of reference, if you don't quite recall the original Vol'jin or would like to compare the two:

Vol'jin Card Image

He wasn't quite as impactful as this new version is shaping up to be, but you might hear some veterans here and there wishing for that art style to make its return. We will let your own tastes decide.

Have you had a chance to play around with or face against the new Vol'jin yet? Any ideas and strategies in particular that you would like to try out with the card? Tell us in the comments below and share your creations with the rest of us!