The new Warrior class legendary introduced in the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, Malkorok, has received a mixed reception. It has seen some play in both Tempo Warrior and Control Warrior, but many people also avoid the card.
Let’s take a closer look at this seven mana, 6/5 minion that also equips a random weapon for you.
How good is Malkorok’s effect?
Obviously, a number of people immediately started to run the numbers on what weapons you can get from Malkorok and how good they are. The facts on weapons and their stats are clear, but the evaluation of how good each of them is differs. Malkorok’s body itself is worth five mana, so at seven mana that leaves two mana as the cost of his effect.
In Hearthstone Standard format, there are currently 20 weapons you can get from Malkorok, so there is a 5% chance to get each. The weapons, roughly from best to worst, are:
- Gorehowl: 7/1 that loses attack instead of durability when attacking a minion
- Gladiator’s Longbow: 5/2 that makes your hero immune while attacking
- Doomhammer: 2/8 with Windfury
- Arcanite Reaper: 5/2
- Assassin’s Blade: 3/4
- Hammer of Twilight: 4/2, deathrattle to summon a 4/2 Elemental
- Truesilver Champion: 4/2, heals your hero for 2 when you attack with it
- Eaglehorn Bow, King’s Defender, Rallying Blade, Fiery War Axe: 3/2 (battlecries will not trigger so all of them are equal when gained from Malkorok)
- Sword of Justice: 1/5, after you summon a minion, give it +1/+1 and Sword of Justice loses a point of durability – it also buffs Malkorok to 7/6 when played and thus starts at 1/4
- Tentacles for Arms: 2/2, deathrattle to return it to your hand
- Charged Hammer: 2/4, deathrattle to change your Hero Power to deal 2 damage, which can be good or bad depending on the situation
- Stormforged Axe: 2/3
- Poisoned Blade: 1/3, gains +1 attack when you use your Hero Power
- Argent Lance, Perdition’s Blade: 2/2
- Light’s Justice: 1/4
- Cursed Blade: 2/3, doubles all damage taken by your hero – this card can potentially lose you the game
Thus, there are 7 weapons (Gorehowl, Gladiator’s Longbow, Doomhammer, Arcanite Reaper, Assassin’s Blade, Hammer of Twilight, and Truesilver Champion) the value of which unconditionally surpasses the mana cost. That’s a 35% chance to get a great result.
There are also 6 weapons (Eaglehorn Bow, King’s Defender, Rallying Blade, Fiery War Axe, Stormforged Axe, Poisoned Blade) that are worth exactly the mana cost. That’s a 30% chance to break even.
There are 3 below average outcomes (Argent Lance, Perdition’s Blade, Light’s Justice) that are hardly worth the mana cost – although getting a weapon and a minion from a single card is a bit of an upside. That’s 15% chance to roll low.
Then there is of course the one awful result – Cursed Blade. Despite being just a 5% chance, it was already seen in the first major Standard tournament, Dreamhack Austin, where Kitkatz was unlucky enough to get one against an aggressive Shaman deck piloted by Reynad – and took lethal 32 damage to face from a Doomhammer strengthened with two Rockbiters the very next turn.
Finally, there are three weapons that are fairly situational: Sword of Justice, Tentacles for Arms, and Charged Hammer. While losing the Warrior Hero Power to Charged Hammer can be a bad outcome, these weapons are generally either exactly worth the mana cost or better than their mana cost. They represent 15% of the overall weapon pool.
Thus, overall, the Malkorok effect has a 35%-50% chance for a good result, a 30%-45% chance for a neutral result, a 15% chance for a below average result, and a 5% chance for a potentially disastrous effect.
This is the point where analysis on the card usually ends: Malkorok is OK, but not spectacular. However, the analysis can be taken a step further.
How good is Malkorok’s body?
A 6/5 body is worth five mana, that’s pretty clear-cut. However, the overall meta also affects what stat distributions are good.
Here Malkorok’s weakness is often emphasized: at five health, there are a number of cheaper minions that can trade into Malkorok: Thing from Below, Dark Arakkoa, Emperor Thaurissan, Faceless Summoner, Harrison Jones, Savage Combatant, and Tomb Pillager. It also does not take a whole lot of small minions to get rid of Malkorok.
However, on the flip side Malkorok also has a strength, its six attack. In the new meta, there are actually a fair number of six health minions that Malkorok is able to slay in one hit! Tirion Fordring, Ancient Shieldbearer, Chillmaw, Twin Emperors, Reno Jackson, Corrupted Healbot, Crazed Worshipper, Thunder Bluff Valiant, Bloodhoof Brave, and Water Elemental all see play at the moment, and Malkorok can challenge them all.
Whereas five health was really common in the previous meta before Whispers of the Old Gods, there are now more six health minions that see play than before. This change in the meta actually works in Malkorok’s favor.
How important is a weapon for a Warrior?
Finally, there is one further consideration. In the previous meta, Warrior decks regularly ran either four or five weapons: 2xFiery War Axe, 2xDeath’s Bite, and optionally Gorehowl. With Death’s Bite rotated out, most Warrior decks have no new weapon to take its place. Aggressive Warrior decks may run Arcanite Reaper and some Tempo Warrior lists opt for Arathi Weaponsmith, but there is nothing to quite take Death’s Bite spot.
Malkorok can obviously serve as a tempo play thanks to the immediate effect of the equipped weapon, but even in a value-based Control Warrior list it is possible to run Malkorok to be better able to use the hero’s health and armor as resources by removing threats with a weapon. This option brings the number of weapons in a Control Warrior deck to four: 2xFiery War Axe, random weapon from Malkorok, and Gorehowl. Thus Malkorok can help Control Warrior increase the number of weapons in the deck while not resorting to running double Gorehowl and also keeping up the minion count.
What about the competition?
In classic Control Warrior, the traditional seven-mana cards are Gorehowl and Baron Geddon. Gorehowl is the ultimate value card, and Malkorok can hardly replace it in a Control Warrior list (although it can replace it in a Tempo list). Baron Geddon is an option thanks to its strong aoe effect, but often the times you need aoe are already before turn seven, and with the addition of Ravaging Ghoul to the Warrior’s repertoire, a Warrior list can include the aoe it needs in forms that are also available earlier in the game despite losing Death’s Bite.
Of the new cards, you could consider running Hogger, Doom of Elwynn, but getting value out of it is by no means certain.
In a C’Thun Control Warrior, the competition is fierce: two copies of Ancient Shieldbearer and the Twin Emperors are almost mandatory cards there, so it is very hard to find room for Malkorok, especially as you also have Gorehowl competing for a spot.
In a Dragon Control Warrior, the situation is similar. While Chillmaw is the only seven mana card, you need to run some expensive dragons as your endgame as well as some midrange dragons for synergy effects anyway, so fitting in another seven-drop is difficult.
At such high mana costs, it might also be acceptable to use an even more expensive card instead of Malkorok, such as Ragnaros for eight mana.
Overall, Malkorok is a card best suited for midrange Warrior decks, Tempo Warrior, and classic Control Warrior. Still, decision on whether to include it depends on your overall deck construction.
Conclusions: Invisible value
There are plenty of cards in Hearthstone that have invisible value. In fact, the best decks take advantage of this. This value is dependent on the prevailing meta and not just on the stats of the card in isolation. The availability of weapons for a Warrior and the number of six health minions that see play have a significant effect on the value of Malkorok. The changes to these factors brought about by Whispers of the Old Gods expansion and Standard format increase the value of Malkorok over what it would seem to be in isolation.