Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is coming back with another Adventure, and that means it's time to pass judgment on the new slate of cards. This time the full set will include 31 new cards in all, and we'll be taking a critical eye to each and every one of them. All of the cards are being categorized as Winners or Losers, which are self-explanatory, or "Oddballs"--cards with unique effects that could be useful with some creative deck management.
On the whole this expansion looks to add some new tools for existing deck types, revive some underutilized classes, and give better tools all around. Blizzard generally knows what it's doing, so the vast majority of these are either good (Winners) or could be (Oddballs). Still, you can't have a deck expansion without some clunkers. Check out the full gallery below, and then dive into our reviews to see what we think.
Blackwing Corruptor - The Shaman's Fire Elemental is so good, why not make a neutral version? That seemed to be the mindset behind Blackwing Corruptor, which sacrifices 1/1 worth of stats for one mana. At the same time, it carries the new "holding" requirement, so it's really only at home in Dragon-based decks. Still, Fire Elemental is extremely versatile, so letting other classes have a crack at the removal-minion combo value is great.
Blackwing Technician - Just like Tinkertown Technician is a staple in Mech decks after the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, expect Blackwing Technician to be a regular in Dragon decks. The stats are decent for the cost, but the added bonus if you're holding a Dragon makes it a must-play on turn three for sheer value alone.
Chromaggus - Like all 8-mana minions, this needs a strong ability to compensate for the cost. Fortunately, Chromaggus' ability is a strong one. Assuming he survives at least one turn, he'll provide a duplicate card. Holding him back until you're fairly certain to draw a Legendary means you'll get two copies of them instead of just one. It is vulnerable to overdrawing, but clever play will let you copy a few cards, and use him to remove a big threat. The Dragon synergy, and not being weak to Big Game Hunter, are just bonuses.
Demonwrath - A clear staple for Demon Warlock decks, this is essentially a cheaper Consecration if used correctly. It will help the recently popular Demonlocks stay competitive against aggressive rush decks while they work on getting their demons out, or in a pinch it can be used to activate your own Deathrattle minions.
Dragonkin Sorcerer - This isn't a class card, but it might as well be for Priest or Paladin. It's very clearly focused on classes that lend themselves to buffing minions, by giving you some additional stat power whenever you do. A Priest's Power Word Shield, for example, would immediately make it a 4/8 at relatively low cost. The Paladin's Blessing of Kings becomes a 5/5 buff, making this thing a hulking 8/10 on turn five.
Dragon Consort - While Paladin already has competition for a strong five-drop with Quartermaster, that one is very situational and relies on Silver Hand Recruits already in-play. The Dragon Consort is more forward-facing, with decent vanilla stats and a benefit that activates the next turn. Paired with a strong 8-drop Dragon like Chromaggus, the Paladin will be uniquely suited to swing the board advantage in their favor on turns five and six.
Drakonid Crusher - There's lots of utility to this card, as it answers two persistently difficult classes. The "Handlock" style of Warlock is easy to get towards critical damage, but hard to finish off. Big taunts, Antique Healbots, and the ever-present threat of Jaraxxas makes it a race against time to finish the job. Drakonid Crusher answers all of those easily. Control Warrior also tends to hit low health, but makes up the deficit with huge armor gains. That armor doesn't count towards health, though, so the Crusher would still be activated to knock off some of that armor. It's vulnerable to Big Game Hunter and Silence, but on the whole it's very versatile and even offers decent vanilla stats without the effect.
Emperor Thaurissan - Expect some big tempo swings with this guy. 5/5 for 6 mana makes for bad stats, similar to Sylvanis, but like Ms. Windrunner his ability more than makes up for it. You're guaranteed right from the start to reduce the cost of every card by 1 mana. If you have four cards in-hand, that's 4-mana worth of cost-savings by trading 1-mana worth of stats. Pretty worth it! More importantly, the ability stacks, so if your opponent can't kill him immediately your cards will just get cheaper and cheaper.
Fireguard Destroyer - Shaman is at a shortage of big beefy minions, especially on turn 4. If you take the Overload cost into account, this thing is at minimum a 4/6 for 5 mana, which is decent. The extra attack boost, though, makes it a must-play, and it's likely to become a staple in Shaman decks. Imagine staring down a 7/6 on turn four, and being forced to take the damage or burn a Big Game Hunter or Silence.
Hungry Dragon - With excellent stats for the cost and the benefit of a Dragon label to boot, this seems like a must-have for Dragon decks. The drawback adds a bit of randomness, but as long as you have at least one minion out, you'll probably be able to deal with whatever it spawns. At worst, you'll spawn a high-attack minion like Flame Imp and your Hungry Dragon is the equivalent of a 5/3 for 4 mana--which is still pretty decent.
Imp Gang Boss - This is a card we'll see in lots of Warlock decks, because it plays so well with both the popular Zoo type and the recent resurgence of the Demonlock. The Gang Boss gives Warlocks a hearty body to play on turn three without bringing out their Void Caller prematurely, and it assures leaving behind an annoying imp even if it dies in a single hit. Imps are weak, but as Imp-losion showed, they can get out of hand when they flood the board.
Lava Shock - Some cards lend themselves to really thoughtful, complicated plays. Shaman has always been a class that requires some level of foresight, since his Overload ability gives overpowered benefits at a cost the next turn. Lava Shock puts an even deeper wrinkle in it by letting savvy Shaman players plan not only their Overloads, but also when exactly to unlock those overloaded mana crystals to use them again. It will be hard to use correctly, but players who can manage it will be extremely powerful.
Quick Shot - This is a gift to the aggressive "Face Hunter" style of play, giving yet another cheap damage-dealing tool. 2 mana for 3 damage puts it on-par with the Dark Bomb, which has become a staple for Warlock decks. Plus, it has an added benefit of cycling for itself if your hand happens to be empty. Since it's cheap, it's much more likely to be playable on an empty hand than Core Rager (see: Losers.)
Revenge - As if the Warrior didn't already have enough Control tools. This fits right in with the current meta, giving the Warrior a nice versatile card to act as both removal of the opponent's minions, and activation for cards like Armorsmith and Grim Patron. The special ability, similar to Mortal Strike, lets you swing things in your favor if you're low on health and acts as a beefed-up Consecration. The only drawback is that if you're already low, it will do some serious damage to your side of the board too, so say goodbye to all those lovely Grim Patrons.
Resurrect - Priest isn't generally very minion-heavy, and Resurrect seems aimed at giving it more board-presence without so much reliance on stealing the opponent's cards and minions. At only 2-mana, it at least pays for itself with everything but 1-mana minions. If you happen to revive a great card like Sylvanis, or even one with a Battlecry drawback like Injured Blademaster, it's a ton of value for the cost.
Solemn Vigil - Paladin's card draw has always been situational. The class mostly relies on Divine Favor, which is an outright dead card if playing against aggressive decks, or Lay on Hands, which is so expensive you essentially spend a turn on it. Solemn Vigil is a nice middle-ground, giving versatile card draw that can give you a cheap card refresh after making trades, or a more expensive one in the late-game when you may have more mana to spare.
Twilight Whelp - Aw, what a cute little dragon! Priest gets an early game minion that isn't just a card-draw engine, by essentially giving it a Zombie Chow without the drawback. You'll need to be holding a Dragon to activate it, and most of them are higher-cost so you may not want to keep them in the Mulligan phase. But if you happen to be holden a Fairie Dragon or Hungry Dragon, this Whelp is a huge swing.
Volcanic Drake - Like the Mage's Dragon's Breath card, the Volcanic Drake is overbudgeted for the stats and relies on minion trading. However, while Dragon's Breath only delivers one-time damage to a target, Volcanic Drake puts out board presence. It would be so-so as a five-mana card, and really excellent for four, so if you make just one even minion trade it pays for itself.
Volcanic Lumberer - Druids are already filthy with big taunts, and Volcanic Lumberer just adds to the pile. It relies on trading to really be worthwhile, but even a single trade (two minions down) would make the stats better-than-vanilla. This would be a great fit for Control decks, delaying your opponent until you draw that all-important Savage Roar combo.
Core Rager - At first glance, Core Rager is insanely powerful. It's potentially a 7/7 for 4 mana, and its card ability seems to play well with the aggressive rush-style decks so popular with Hunter right now. On top of that it's a Beast, which makes for nice synergy. However, its stats are awkward. Having an empty hand on turn four is extremely unlikely, even for aggro decks, especially because of the common use of Webspinner in the early game. That means Core Rager will be relegated to a later play, when your opponent will already have tools to deal with it. It's a card that represents a big swing if you get it out early, but it will be nearly impossible to get it out early without buliding a deck around sub-optimal cards like Wisp. It's just not worth that sacrifice for one card.
Dark Iron Skulker - This isn't necessarily a terrible card, but not a very useful one. The Rogue already excels at board control, especially in its currently popular "Oil Rogue" incarnation. The Skulker is targeted squarely at regaining control after being overrun by small minions, as in a Zoo or Rush deck, but Rogues are doing fine without. Meanwhile the effect is very conditional, only hitting minions that aren't already damaged, and it would trigger the Deathrattle effects of minions that are popular in Zoo decks anyway. The stats are weak for the cost and the effect isn't necessary.
Dragon Egg - Without some buffing, at best this will summon two 2/1 whelps. Those may be helpful for certain Dragon synergies, but they're easy enough to remove across all classes. Plus, since it has 0 attack, you don't get to determine your own targets or remove a target while spawning your whelps, so whatever enemy minion triggers the effect will still be around to remove it.
Druid of the Flame - This card may seem versatile, but neither of its forms have much use. A 5/2 is far too weak on turn three, since it can die to even most 1-drops. A 2/5 is slightly better for small token removal, but without Charge or Windfury it just sits on the board and gets taken down without much trouble. Plus, since Shade of Naxxramas is a staple in Druid decks, playing this card instead is never going to be preferable.
Rend Blackhand - Any 7-drop with only 4 health is too weak to start with, but Rend's problems don't end there. He's also vulnerable to Big Game Hunter, which is in heavy use right now thanks to the prevalence of Dr. Boom. His effect requires two separate conditions to line up at once. And since the card text doesn't read "enemy Legendary," if you have a Legendary out and your opponent doesn't, you won't be able to play Rend without sacrificing your other card. This might be useful in a meta that's very heavy with hard-to-remove Legendaries like Ysera or Kel'Thuzad, but even then it's hard to imagine him seeing regular use.
Axe Flinger - Warrior has been pigeonholed into a Control deck archtype, and Axe Flinger aims to change that. This would be right at home if some intrepid player figures out how to make a proper Warrior Aggro deck. Like Grim Patron, the class' tendency to damage its own minions means this could do serious damage to your opponent. At worst, it's the Warrior equivalent of a Hunter's Explosive Trap. You can remove the minion, but it's going to cost you.
Dragon's Breath - At its base stats, this card has an awful cost. However, the ability seems aimed at minion-heavy mages like the current Mech Mage archtype. If you just save it for a turn with lots of trading, either in the mid-game with low-grade minions, or in the late-game with a card like Dr. Boom, it can be practically free. It could provide great value in the right deck, but consistently having it in-hand when you happen to be trading could prove difficult.
Gang Up - Rogue decks aren't usually minion-heavy, instead relying on a handful of burst damage from weapons or charged minions. That makes Gang Up an odd duck. Like Faceless Manipulator, you really need to rely on copying your own minions since you can't count on your opponent's. That said, Rogues do tend to draw their entire deck with cards like Sprint, so shuffling into the deck isn't itself too much of a drawback. Plus, at the very least, it will make opponents wary of playing really strong cards, since the Rogue will be able to get three of them in response.
Grim Patron - It has awful stats for the cost, but the effect is sure to make for some interesting plays. This seems right at home in Warrior decks, which get a lot of mileage out of damaging their own minions. The synergy with Bouncing Blade, which never found a proper home from GvG, is through the roof. Other classes might get use out of it, too, like a Priest running Wild Pyromancer. We're sure to see some experimentation with this one.
Flamewaker - This might have been a great card before the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, but now it's filling a niche that's already taken. The spell ability plays so well with Spare Parts you would really need to use it in a Mech deck, and if you're running Mechs anyway there's no reason not to play Tinkertown Technician for much better stats. That said, some intrepid Mage player could probably find a way to make this work, and the card itself isn't outright bad. It's just hard to see where it fits right now.
Majordomo Executus - A neutral card that acts similarly to Jaraxxus is just what Hearthstone fans have been waiting for, and this one does look fun to play. However, it will be extremely hard to use well. Jaraxxus' effect takes place immediately, which means it's useful to gain back health quickly when you're on the ropes. The Handlock archtype relies almost entirely on this. Executus, on the other hand, is much harder to control. Since he summons Ragnaros as a Deathrattle, your opponent will usually get to pick when that happens. Ragnaros only has 8 health, so it will almost never work in your favor. Against classes that have plenty of burst damage, they can just make sure to take out Executus the same turn they have 8 points of damage.
Nefarian - Nine mana is always going to be hard to justify, and Big Game Hunter is so popular that an 8/8 is extremely vulnerable. That makes its ability the real benefit, which essentially costs 1 mana for a much more specific version of the Priest's Thoughtsteal ability. Instead of stealing any cards, you're taking random spells. Additionally, the spells are randomized from the class, rather than from your opponent's deck, so you have a chance at grabbing just about anything. Time will tell if Nefarian gets widespread use, but the ability is so unique it will be fun to play around with, at the very least.