Chillmaw received a mixed reception during its introduction in Hearthstone’s The Grand Tournament (TGT) expansion in autumn 2015. A card designed to challenge Patron Warrior as a seven mana 6/6 dragon with a deathrattle to deal three damage to all minions if you are holding a dragon, it saw modest play in Dragon Priest and even many Dragon Priest lists chose to not run it.
Let’s face it, Chillmaw is not a fancy legendary when compared to the dragon powerhouses such as Chromaggus, Nefarian, or Ysera. However, it seems to always find a spot in all dragon decks I build, whether Priest, Druid, or Warrior. It is also the card that I get the most inquiries about replacing – people are generally unwilling to craft Chillmaw as it does not do anything fancy at first sight.
Perhaps people should be more enthusiastic about crafting Chillmaw though, especially now with the Standard format making it more powerful than ever. Let’s take a deeper look.
The bridge between midgame and late game
Chillmaw is unique among dragons. It is the only dragon card in Hearthstone that costs seven mana, and that alone makes it a major candidate for any dragon deck: packing your deck full of dragons that cost nine or ten mana makes survival difficult, and good late game is of no comfort if you can never reach it.
As you generally want to use at least seven dragons in a dragon deck for the synergies – even more in Priest to get those synergies going from turn one – a seven-mana dragon is a good fit for the mana curve between the early game dragons at four and the late games dragons at nine.
Is that it? Is Chillmaw used simply because there are no other options? Not at all.
6/6 is still a great statline, perhaps better than ever
The statline and effect of Chillmaw are perfect for a deck that wants to survive to play its big threats and looks forward to transitioning to the end game in as good a shape as possible.
The 6/6 body was originally important to avoid being targeted by Big Game Hunter, but after the nerf there are fewer Big Game Hunters around. However, the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion actually brought new relevance to Chillmaw’s statline even while it took away the big threat that Chillmaw’s statline just barely avoided.
In the new Standard format meta after Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, a number of six health minions are seeing play: Tirion Fordring, Ancient Shieldbearer, Twin Emperors, Reno Jackson, Corrupted Healbot, Crazed Worshipper, Thunder Bluff Valiant, Bloodhoof Brave, and Water Elemental all see play at the moment. Whereas five health was the norm before Standard, and some of Chillmaw’s attack was usually wasted when trading, six is a much more significant figure in the new meta. This has been a buff to Chillmaw!
The board clearing deathrattle is more powerful than ever
Chillmaw’s deathrattle has also received an indirect buff with the Standard format.
First, there are fewer silence cards in decks, as Blizzard nerfed several of them by making them more expensive. Whereas practically all decks used to run one silence effect, and many had even two, now the norm is between none at all and one. Midrange Shaman with its double Hex is the most notable exception. Still, this makes Chillmaw more likely to be able to actually pull off its deathrattle.
Furthermore, many sticky minions rotated out of the Standard format, and decks are now relying more on refilling the board after clears than on sticky minions with deathrattles that make board clears ineffective. With Chillmaw, a dragon deck can easily include another area damage effect that helps with repeatedly clearing the board against flood decks.
Patron just refuses to die – except to Chillmaw
Chillmaw was originally introduced to fight Grim Patrons. First, Grim Patrons stopped charging with the Warsong Commander nerf, and this boosted Chillmaw’s effectiveness against them a lot. Then, in Standard rotation, Patron Warrior lost Death’s Bite, which was the premium activator for Grim Patrons to multiply, but it also gained Blood to Ichor and Ravaging Ghoul, two new ways to whirlwind the board for more Patrons. As a result, Patron Warrior remains a strong deck – one that has managed to reinvent itself twice over the past months, not a small feat!
Well, Chillmaw is the premium answer to non-charging Patrons. Patron Warrior usually does not run any silence effects, so dropping a Chillmaw on the board after a Patron wave has spawned simply destroys them the very next turn. Chillmaw is even better at doing its job now than it was when it was introduced to the game.
The new use: N’Zoth decks
Whispers of the Old Gods expansion introduced another card that increases the value of Chillmaw beyond dragon decks: N’Zoth the Corruptor. A powerful old god that brings back all your deathrattle minions that have died during the game, N’Zoth can make use of Chillmaw even outside dragon decks.
You often want to get some protection for yourself when you play N’Zoth, and there are only three neutral taunt minions with deathrattle in the game: Infested Tauren, Abomination, and Chillmaw. Paladin, of course, has the super legendary Tirion Fordring for this role.
Of the neutral minions, Infested Tauren generally sees the most play, because it has a useful deathrattle to summon a new minion and it can be played earlier than the other options to help stall the game until you are ready to play N’Zoth. Still, Chillmaw remains an option for N’Zoth decks as well simply because of the deathrattle tag, even if its deathrattle is never triggered in such decks – which might even be an advantage over Abomination depending on your overall gameplan.
Chillmaw has always been a good card for dragon decks. Not a fancy one, even though it is sometimes game-winning against flood decks or Patron decks, but a solid backbone card that links midgame and late game and helps the deck reach the turns when you can play all the really fancy dragons.
It is mostly an invisible workhorse that people are reluctant to craft as they’d want to have real end game legendaries that win games when played. In this role, it is similar to Bloodmage Thalnos – another legendary that is played earlier in the game and may feel like a poor investment of dust, but that nonetheless is game-winning more often than you would think, even when it does not win the game simply by virtue of being slammed on the board.
This is why Chillmaw is good, and has a place in practically all of my dragon decks. This is also why you should craft Chillmaw if you want to play dragon decks – it does so much invisible work for you game after game even though it does not end them in a spectacular fashion.