Although we haven't received any news yet, Fractured in Alterac Valley's Mini-Set shouldn't be really far away: in the end, the expansion launched almost two months ago, so the time should be ripe.
Since cards in the mini set tend to have a higher than average power level than the ones contained in an expansion (you add a few cards just to shake up the meta: what would be the point of adding weak cards that wouldn't see play?), we are fairly positive that this upcoming event will bring a breath of fresh air in the format, plagued until very recently with the remnants of the Stormwind's 'solitaire' meta and Rogue shenanigans.
Therefore, our goal in this article is trying to predict what we'll see in the next Mini-Set. In order to do this, our judgment will be based on the archetypes that were pushed in Fractured in Alterac Valley (or even in Forged in the Barrens and United in Stormwind!) but still need an extra nudge in order to get to the point of being playable. Have a good read!
General Discussion - Mechanics
This time around, we'll do things a little different than usual. In fact, a large number of classes already feel figured out (at least for this rotation), and we struggle to see archetypes that may need further support. However, there are a few factors that come in play and that are very likely to change the cards on the table.
First of all, last year we saw that Madness at the Darkmoon Faire's Mini-Set, Darkmoon Races, featured mechanics not exclusive to its expansion, but belonging to the entire Year of the Phoenix. If you remember well, we received many callbacks, like Envoy Rustwix for Ashes of Outland's Primes, many Dual-Class cards for Scholomance Academy and so on.
What we're trying to say is that the mechanics (either keywords or not) showcased throughout the entire Year of the Gryphon are very likely to return in Fractured in Alterac Valley's upcoming Mini-Set. Here are some of said mechanics that we may end up seeing again:
- Forged in the Barrens - Frenzy, Ranked spells, Sigils, Dungeoneers and Adventurers.
- Only Mage, Priest and Shaman have received a Dungeoneer card so far.
- United in Stormwind - Tradeable, Questline synergy, Mount spells, SI:7, Profession Tools, Parrots.
- Only Druid, Hunter, Paladin, Priest and Warlock have received a Mount spell so far.
- Only Hunter, Mage, Paladin, Priest and Warlock have received a Profession tool so far.
- Only Hunter, Mage, Paladin and Shaman have received a Parrot minion so far.
- Fractured in Alterac Valley - Honorable Kill, Hero cards, Objective spells.
While we have no way to be 100% sure about which or how many mechanics will return, we are fairly genuine we won't end up being wrong.
General Discussion - Mini-Set Theme
Another thing we predict is that, just like The Deadmines was based around Pirates, Alterac Valley's Mini-Set will be about... Dragons. Yes. You didn't see this one coming, huh? In other to draw this (at first sight rather bizarre) conclusion, we rounded up a few bits of evidence that Team 5 left here and there in order to prepare the ground.
The first hint comes from Standard's card pool. With the Year of the Dragon's Descent of Dragons in rotation, the Year of the Phoenix sets couldn't add much more of said tribal units to the game, given their already high presence. Therefore, the Year of the Gryphon started with very few Dragon minions in the card pool:
- Ashes of Outland - Dragonmaw Sky Stalker, Skeletal Dragon
- Scholomance Academy - Crimson Hothead, Onyx Magescribe, Plagued Protodrake
- Madness at the Darkmoon Faire - Dreaming Drake, Circus Amalgam, Tent Trasher, Runaway Blackwing.
What's even more surprising is the absolute lack of Dragon minions in the Year of the Gryphon sets, with just Brasswing being the only scaled unit printed so far. That's definitely suspicious.
The second hint comes from the game modes Mercenaries and Duels, which recently received some specific content update regarding, that's right, Dragons. Starting with Mercenaries, Wrathion (Onyxia's nephew) and Sinestra (the former prime consort of Deathwing and mother of Onyxia) are going to be added in the game mode as playable Mercs - what timing, huh?
The final clue comes from the Year of the Gryphon's storyline. Together with the Mercenaries' adventures, we've come to know that Lady Prestor (who is none less than Onyxia the Broodmother in disguise) is secretly plotting with Kazakus in order to obtain the power of the Shard of the Naaru. So far, Lady Prestor and Kazakus are yet to unveil their final goal, and we're not here to discuss about it.
What's interesting is that players have been saying for quite a while that Kazakus himself is a Dragon, and that is sort of corroborated by the original Kazakus's flavor text - "The mysterious leader of the Kabal is NOT a dragon, and does NOT deal in illegal potions. Any public statements to the contrary will be met with litigation and Dragonfire Potions.”
What we're trying to say is that this seems to be the right scenario for Team 5 to reveal Kazakus' true identity as a Dragon as part of both the Year of the Gryphon's storyline and Alterac Valley's Mini-Set's theme. To be more precise, we think that the upcoming mini-set won't take place in Alterac, but it will have our Mercenaries travel all the way back to the Barrens (the location of this year's first expansion) in order to fight Onyxia herself in her own lair.
Beautiful, beautiful city of Theramore. I hope nothing bad happens to it...
As our WoW veterans might remember, "Onyxia's Lair" is an iconic early raid that takes place in the Dustwallow Marsh region, and it would close the circle of the Year of the Gryphon's narration. A perfect way to end the Mercenaries' narration!
Dustwallow Marsh is a vast and ancient swamp in Central Kalimdor that is home to many old and wonderful beasts. Navigation is often extremely difficult and many adventurers have lost their way in this great jungle, where trees obscure the sunlight and raptors, spiders and crocolisks lie in wait, hunting those brave enough to venture close to their lairs.
A hot, fetid swampland, Dustwallow Marsh is fed by underground springs that keep it eternally wet and muddy. Mosquitoes buzz in the air. Trees dip fronds into the waters. The climate is home to a variety of predators, including crocolisks and murlocs. Black dragons dwell in the southern end of the swamp in such profusion that the area garners the name "Wyrmbog". Dustwallow Marsh abuts the ocean on its east side, and the mixing of the waters makes a wide swath brackish. Off the coast there are some islands like Alcaz Island or a rocky island on which was perched the Alliance stronghold-city of Theramore until it was destroyed by Garrosh Hellscream.
Near the low hills that form the western edge of the Marsh separating it from the Barrens, the Stonemaul ogres have opened their Brackenwall Village to the races of the Horde. Brackenwall serves as an essential foothold for the Horde in the marshlands.
We are so confident about this prediction being true that we'll hold steadily onto it, and we'll proudly rise or fall together with it. With all this being said, here's what each class could receive in the upcoming Fractured in Alterac Valley Mini-Set.
Predictions - Sigil, Mount Spell.
Mount Spell - We did predict this one in The Deadmines Mini-Set predictions, but we were wrong; however, we're determined, and suggest this prediction another time.
In one of United in Stormwind's visual arts released prior to the expansion, we can notice Xyrella and her Elekk, Tavish Stormpike and his Ram, Cariel Roame and her Warhorse and two other characters: Kurtrus Ashfallen and Scabbs Cutterbutter riding respectively a felsaber and a mechanostrider.
If we were to guess purely by Demon Hunter's current themes, we could definitely see a buff spell with "Deathrattle: Draw a card and summon a Felsaber" that also draws a card. While we cannot be sure about the effect itself, we're pretty confident we'll get Kurtrus' Felsaber.
Sigil - We are not aware if Sigils will be a Year of the Gryphon exclusive mechanics, so we'll presume they are. Since Forged in the Barrens, we have received a total of 5 spells related to this mechanic (Flame, Silence, Alacrity, Summoning, Reckoning), and we'd love to close this year-long narration with one last Sigil.
Predictions - Choose One.
Choose One - Alterac Valley brought us Pride Seeker and Pathmaker, but just one Choose One card in Capture Coldtooth Mine. What's even more baffling is that Pathmaker's achievement (Play 16 different Choose One effects) cannot be completed in Standard.
Therefore, we cannot reasonably see a scenario where Druid won't receive any support in this direction.
Predictions - Rat Hunter
We'd be surprised if Alterac Valley's Mini-Set were not to promote the Token archetype. Originally introduced in United in Stormwind, the archetype is yet to receive valid support in any form, and we don't think Team 5 is going to push Face Hunter even more.
One cute way to print "Rat" support and maintain some sort of flavor would be bringing back the Swift Hyena cards from Forged in the Barrens - Wound Prey, Kolkar Pack Runner and Sin'dorei Scentfinder all have in common those 1/1s with Rush.
Predictions - Dragons (or any form of minions, really).
We can all agree on the fact that it is time for Mage to divert from spell-heavy builds. No Minion Mage, Questline Sorcerer's Gambit Mage, Mozaki Mage: they were all fun for a bit, but then they wore off pretty quickly. People (myself included) seem to miss the times where Jaina wanted to play actual units in her decks...
While Wildfire Hero Power Mage is a step in the right direction, another Mage-classic archetype has always pushed the class towards running minions: that's right, Dragon Mage. Remember Kalecgos from Rise of Shadows or Malygos, Aspect of Magic from Descent of Dragons? Man, those were the times.
As we already mentioned, Standard has very little Dragons right now, so an archetype like this would need either time or broken support in order for it to be competitive, but we'd still want to see it back nonetheless.
Predictions - Aggro, tribal support.
Aggro - With the right followup cards, Dun Baldar Bridge can become an incredible powerhouse for aggressive strategies: the fact that this Objective spell has a turn limit but not a 'proc' limit means that it's easily exploitable, especially with board-flooding effects like Drek'Thar or Stand Against Darkness/Derailed Coaster.
Tribal Support - We're kind of torn on this one. Paladin's Year of the Phoenix/Gryphon sets were pretty on point, both power level and flavor wise, so it's not easy to identify more than one archetype that might need love: yes, there's the "Big" Cavalry Horn one, but we don't think Team 5 wants a Barnes meta.
For this reason, we have to remind you all that in the past Paladin had access to both Dragons and Murlocs: while for the latter it's quite the unfortunate moment, as all the class support is going to rotate soon, a couple strong and impactful Dragons may partially make up for the upcoming loss of the Libram package, allowing Paladin strategies to remain relatively slow-paced.
Predictions - Deathrattle, Dragons.
Dragon - If Dragons are going to be a thing in the next mini-set, there's no way Priest won't be one of the classes to receive support in that direction. Let us remember you that Ashes of Outland's Dragonmaw Sentinel and Skeletal Dragon have a couple months left in Standard and have received no support since they were released almost 12 months ago.
Deathrattle - Although we think that Priest's cards will be mainly focused on Dragons, we have to keep in mind that Deathrattles are back on the menu, but they haven't made quite the impact so far. Asking for too many things will definitely leave us unsatisfied, but one can hope...
Predictions - Deathrattle, SI:7.
Deathrattle - This time around, Rogue felt one of the easiest class to talk about. While the class is nowhere near unplayable, there are still a few archetypes that might use some more support in order to emerge. One of said archetypes is Deathrattle, and the situation is actually quite amusing: while Valeera has strong support in tools like Forsaken Lieutenant, Snowfall Graveyard and Counterfeit Blade, what's missing is... Deathrattles to exploit!
Yes, because unless you resort to Reconnaissance highrolls (and building an entire deck just around that card is not very clever), you are forced with Neutrals or lackluster units like Loan Shark, Ticket Master, Infiltrator Lilian - not really the best. Giving Rogue some nice class Deathrattle minions, team 5 will be able to increase Valeera's archetype diversity without necessarily breaking the game.
SI:7 - While there's no rule that forbids Team 7 from printing SI:7 cards in the future, this mini-set seems to be the perfect occasion for Team 5 to give Find the Imposter Rogue at least one more tool to play with. In the end, we are talking about the end of the narration involving Scabbs Cutterbutter, so giving this archetype another push seems more than fitting.
Predictions - Murlocs.
With Alterac Valley's Shaman set entirely dedicated to the Freeze archetype, we highly doubt that Team 5's goal is supporting an already well performing deck: in fact, we'd be incredibly surprised to see even more support for Windchill and friends.
On the other hand, almost every Shaman strategy has its own playability status already achieved, and there is pretty much just one exception: Murlocs.
If you remember well, the Forged in the Barrens expansion had a major focus on Murlocs, printing a large package in that direction with Firemancer Flurgl, Nofin Can Stop Us and Spawnpool Forager on the lead; later on, the Deadmines gave us Cookie the Cook, but then... nothing else.
Given the Dustwallow Marsh's environment, which is populated by Murlocs, we expect Team 5 to consider giving Thrall some fishy support.
Predictions - Zoo support, Fel.
Zoo - Sacrificial Summoner is truly a wonderful card, and many people might not know it because it belongs to an archetype that is yet to make an actual impact in the meta. However, we think that Zoo Warlock might not be that far from being competitive, and therefore our idea is that even just one or two focused cards will be able to flip the table and allow the archetype to be successful.
Fel - Imagine printing Felwalker, a 6 mana unit, with Felfire in the Hole! as the best spell to cheat out. There's obviously something we're missing, and Team 5 might do the same thing they did back in the day with Overlord Saurfang (released in Forged in the Barrens and not very successful) and Kresh, Lord of Turtling (released in the Wailing Caverns Mini-Set).
Therefore, it is clear to our eyes that Warlock will receive at least one valid Fel Spell in the mini-set, allowing for some game scenarios different from The Demon Seed or Hand Warlock.
Predictions - Frenzy, Control.
As a premise, we have to point out that the class arrives to this mini-set in shambles: Pirate Raid the Docks Warrior is the only playable deck, and it just got nerfed because of its high dominance at lower brackets of ladder and because of Wild shenanigans. Other than that, the class is basically dead, but there's no need to despair (yet): remember when Shaman was completely unplayable during Forged in the Barrens? Then the Wailing Caverns Mini-Set came along with Wailing Vapor and Primal Dungeoneer, singlehandedly bringing the class to tier 1. We have no guarantee it will happen the same with Warrior, but one thing is certain: Garrosh needs some really good cards if they want to be relevant in the next two months.
Frenzy - The Year of the Gryphon is about to end, and Overlord Saurfang has very few worthy units to bring back with its effect. While Kresh, Lord of Turtling brought Saurfang into playability, Stonemaul Anchorman is ofter included as "the less bad" option rather than a really wanted one. For this reason, giving Garrosh another Frenzy unit will be very fitting, will give the mechanic more consistency and will also help the class to achieve more stability in the late game, allowing for Control Warrior to flourish once again.
Control - Right now, Control Warrior is quite the mess: while there's a strong core, the deck seems too slow and too clunky to stand a chance against other (faster and more consistent) contenders. As pointed out by many pros in the competitive scene, a good way to improve the archetype's playability would be giving Control Warrior some form of unconditional card draw: nothing particularly fancy or broken, but just something you can use to refill your hand without having to rely on really situational cards like Outrider's Axe.
One way of achieving this result would be bringing back the Barrens Dungeoneer mechanic (draw a spell, with a bonus if it's from a certain Spell School: Primal Dungeoneer, Devout Dungeoneer) for Warrior. The class recently received 3 Frost spells, but we wouldn't mind seeing some Fire shenanigans (although there isn't much support in that direction), setting up a future expansion.
What do you think about these predictions? Are there any archetypes you'd like to see pushed in the upcoming mini-set? Let us know in the comments below.