With the Standard format fast approaching, it will soon be time to re-evaluate some of the established truths and choices when it comes to selecting cards for Hearthstone decks. However, there are some cards that are already great when used properly, but that do not receive the appreciation they deserve – much to the delight of the few players who have realized their power.
One such card is the Flame Juggler.
Being sticky is not always about a deathrattle
Flame Juggler is a surprisingly sticky minion, a 2/3 for 2 mana, which means that it is almost impossible for 1-drops to remove it effectively. Furthermore, its battlecry of dealing 1 damage to a random enemy can often make it trade even better by simply destroying the opponent’s 1-drop or a Divine Shield from a minion the moment the card is played.
The current meta includes lots of powerful 2/2 minions: Mad Scientist, Shielded Minibot, and Dark Peddler, and the Flame Juggler can trade very effectively with each of them. It can also weaken them so that a 1-drop or another source of 1 damage can take them down.
Another common feature in the current meta is board flooding. Muster for Battle, Imp-losion, and Haunted Creeper fill the board with 1/1 minions and face decks use Worgen Infiltrator, Leper Gnome, Argent Horserider, and Wolfrider to push for damage to face. The battlecry of the Flame Juggler can make short work of any of them, although obviously there is some randomness involved. Flame Juggler is even more effective when combined with Knife Juggler, as together they can fling two juggles when summoning a single minion.
The 2/3 stats also make Flame Juggler annoying to deal with for Priests: it does not die to Lightbomb, and it also does not die to Holy Nova. This enables an otherwise aggressive lineup to retain some stickiness based on the stats, not just deathrattles.
Flame Juggler in decks
The first, and only, mainstream deck to feature Flame Jugglers is Aggro Shaman. Even in that deck Flame Juggler is a tech choice, as it competes for the 2 mana slot with Knife Juggler and Whirling Zap-O-Matic, the more common, more aggressive options.
Flame Juggler has also seen some experimentation in Aggro Druid, and some Aggro Druid lists run one Knife Juggler and one Flame Juggler. Nonetheless, it remains a rare tech choice in that deck as well, as the slot is usually filled with two Knife Jugglers, and sometimes with two copies of Power of the Wild.
Flame Juggler has also rarely seen play in some Paladin lists and well as in Face Hunter, but these remain a rarity.
Overall, then, it is quite unlikely to run into a Flame Juggler on the ladder – the only Flame Jugglers I have faced there have been in Aggro Shaman decks.
Double Juggler Zoo – replacing the Haunted Creeper
The deck I have used Flame Juggler the most myself is my Double Juggler Zoo – a Zoo deck that runs two of both types of Jugglers (does that make it a quadruple juggler zoo?) and no Haunted Creepers. Haunted Creeper has long been considered a staple in Zoo and completely irreplaceable as it helps Zoo with its main strategy of flooding the board, but I have found Flame Juggler to be more than an adequate replacement.
One of the main cases where you want to play Haunted Creeper in Zoo is when you’re facing a Paladin and he has played a Shielded Minibot. Flame Juggler actually trades better with the Minibot than Haunted Creeper does! The same applies to all the other 2/2 minions, and against a board full of 1/1s the Flame Juggler is about equal to the Creeper, except that it is faster because of the battlecry.
The advantages of the Haunted Creeper stem from its deathrattle, as it is easier to sacrifice the main body of the Creeper with a buff into a minion, or to use the spawned 1/1s as part of a Dire Wolf Alpha chain. Without buffs, however, the Flame Juggler is superior.
Will Flame Juggler remain good in Standard?
There is one common theme you may have noticed among all this praise for Flame Juggler. Muster for Battle, Shielded Minibot, Mad Scientist, Lightbomb… Many of the cards that make Flame Juggler a good choice in the current meta will be rotating out of Standard in spring. So, will Flame Juggler still have a place in Standard?
One thing that is not going to change is how good Flame Juggler is against 1-drops. As long as 1 health minions are played, Flame Juggler has a chance to shine. Likewise, as long as 1 drops generally do not have 3 attack power, Flame Juggler should be able to make very good trades against them.
One of its current downsides is that it is a 2-drop that cannot kill the first form of the Piloted Shredder. However, with Shredder rotating out, future 4-drops are likely to be immune to 2-drops anyway, at least the ones that come from the existing sets: Savage Combatant, Violet Teacher, Water Elemental, and Tomb Pillager to name a few.
One advantage that Flame Juggler may lose is its ability to trade so well against other 2-drops. With Mad Scientist and Shielded Minibot rotating out, people may be more inclined to play 2-drops with a 3/2 stat line, thus negating the advantage Flame Juggler has in trading. If cards such as King’s Elekk and Huge Toad see more play in the future, the Flame Juggler loses some of its power.
On the other hand, with the downfall of sticky minions, Flame Juggler’s stickiness may become more appreciated in Standard than what it is today.
Flame Juggler is a powerful option for that 2 mana slot: a surprisingly sticky minion that can be used defensively to control the board through valuable trades or offensively to push for damage while forcing the opponent to use valuable resources for removal. It has not seen that much play, but it can produce surprisingly good results, for example as a replacement for Haunted Creeper.
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