I have written before about the multitude of deathrattle minions that will be leaving the Hearthstone Standard format upon the release of Whispers of the Old Gods expansion. Two days ago one of the replacement cards was announced: Possessed Villager, a Warlock class card one mana 1/1 minion with a deathrattle to summon another 1/1 minion.
As sticky boards have proven to be a formidable asset in Hearthstone, any cards with summon effects as their deathrattle are highly interesting. So, how good is the Possessed Villager?
Blizzard: Possessed Villager as a replacement for Haunted Creeper
In the article where the card was released, Mike Donais from Blizzard commented that “with the loss of Haunted Creeper and Nerubian Egg players are looking for alternatives that prove difficult to deal with by your opponent. This card is exactly what they need.” (translation from Hearthpwn)
While to some extent this is true, there are also significant differences: Possessed Villager costs only one mana, and the difference in power between one-mana and two-mana minions is considerable. It also does not increase in power in death unlike Haunted Creeper and Nerubian Egg, which is one of the main reasons players hesitate to kill them – by killing them you only strengthen the board of your opponent. With Possessed Villager, you just need to kill the same minion twice, and do not need to worry about increasing the power of your opponent by killing it.
Comparison with the Argent Squire
Rather than a direct replacement of Haunted Creeper, Possessed Villager resembles another already existing card: the Argent Squire. The Argent Squire also requires you to kill the same minion twice, as its Divine Shield absorbs one attack, and the minion itself has one health, so any two attacks finish it off for good.
This is where things get interesting. It is unlikely for most decks to increase the number of one-drops they run, as one-drops offer so little power overall. Therefore, Possessed Villager is an alternative to Argent Squire. Which one is better?
It is likely that Zoolock will turn to Possessed Villager instead of Argent Squire. Have you ever needed to remove a large minion, and had to cast Power Overwhelming on your still Divine Shielded Argent Squire? That’s one Divine Shield wasted. Possessed Villager does not share this weakness.
Advantages of Possessed Villager over Argent Squire:
- Can easily be sacrificed with Power Overwhelming as the deathrattle will summon a new 1/1 minion
- Can survive Brawl, Twisting Nether, Doom, and Doomsayer through its deathrattle
- Not vulnerable to Blood Knight stealing the Divine Shield
Advantages of Argent Squire over Possessed Villager:
- Can be used to transfer full stats to a Void Terror after Power Overwhelming if it still has its Divine Shield – this, however, is a rare occurrence
- Can be used in combination with Blood Knight to buff the Blood Knight
- Works better with permanent buffs as the damage from the first hit is absorbed by the Divine Shield – Warlock, however, does not have suitable buffs, such as Blessing of Kings, to take advantage of this
Possessed Villager easily wins this comparison.
What can replace Haunted Creeper?
So, the search for a replacement for Haunted Creeper continues. Possessed Villager is not it, even though it is likely to see a lot of play in Zoolock – but as a replacement of Argent Squire, not Haunted Creeper. (It might also replace Voidwalker and be run together with Argent Squire, but that 1/3 body is already quite sticky so that is unlikely, and the Demon tribe tag might also be valuable in the future)
My favorite for a replacement has so far been Flame Juggler, but we need to see more of the new cards before saying for sure. With Mad Scientist and Shielded Minibot leaving Standard, Flame Juggler’s 2/3 body has fewer 2/2s to prey on, and as Muster for Battle and Imp-losion are also rotating out, the Flame Juggler’s battlecry has fewer tokens to prey on as well. Furthermore, as the cards revealed from Whispers of the Old Gods so far include a number of one attack one-drops (that cannot kill a 3/2 so no significant trade advantage for the 2/3) as well as a couple of playable three mana 3/3s (Steward of Darkshire, Ravaging Ghoul) that trade well with a 2/3 but not as well with a 3/2, it remains to be seen whether the 2/3 statline will be desirable in Standard.
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