Journey to Un’Goro Card Spotlight: Free from Amber

In this Hearthstone Journey to Un’Goro card spotlight, I take a look at Free from Amber. While it does not seem particularly impressive at first glance, it is currently seeing a fair bit of play in Control Priest decks. So, what’s the catch?

Free from Amber

Free from Amber is a rare Priest class spell from Journey to Un’Goro that costs 8 mana and allows you to discover a minion that costs 8 or more and then summon it.

The regular rules for discoveries and summon apply: you can only discover minions that are neutral or from your own class (Priest, unless you acquire the spell by some means for another class), and the minion is summoned, not played, so any battlecry effects do not activate. I still see people forget about this and pick a minion with a good battlecry – don’t do that, just pick for stats or other effects and ignore the battlecry.

That’s a lot of limitations right there.

There are some upsides to Free from Amber being a spell instead of a minion:

  • It synergizes with Atiesh from Medivh, summoning an additional random 8-drop in addition to the discovered minion
  • It synergizes with Lyra
  • It synergizes with Radiant Elemental discount
  • You can tutor for it with Shadow Visions when you need it (control matchups, having Atiesh ready)
  • It does not trigger Mirror Entity or Repentance (but it does trigger Counterspell)

The main upside here is the synergy with Medivh/Atiesh: that is a game-winning combo in slow matchups. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone play Free from Amber without Medivh, actually, whereas if there’s Medivh, there is often also one copy of Free from Amber in the list. Priest just does not have a lot of good expensive spells to combo with Atiesh, and Free from Amber has some very strong synergy with it, so the two have become near-inseparable.

Free from Amber discovery options and probabilities

But let’s take a look at Free from Amber on its own, how good is it?

Remember, we are talking about 8+ mana minions here, so as a general rule such an expensive minion needs to have an immediate effect on the game in order to be played. Almost no matter the stats, you would not play an 8-mana card just for stats – at least it would have to have taunt to go alongside those stats so that it requires your opponent to react to it.

Discover options that could see play as minions when playing Control Priest:

  • Y’Shaarj, Rage Unbound: 10/10, at the end of your turn, put a minion from your deck into the battlefield
  • Giant Mastodon: 6/10, Taunt
  • Malygos: 4/12, Spell damage +5
  • Soggoth the Slitherer: 5/9, Taunt, can’t be targeted by spells or Hero Powers
  • Ysera: 4/12, at the end of your turn, add a Dream Card to your hand
  • Charged Devilsaur: 7/7, Charge (negative battlecry does not trigger)

None of the other options could realistically see play as minions, even though a big pile of stats can occasionally be useful.

The big stats sticks, generally worth more than 8 mana from a stat point of view:

  • Deathwing: 12/12
  • Deathwing, Dragonlord: 12/12 (deathrattle is rarely useful, maybe if you run Ysera in your deck)
  • Faceless Behemoth: 10/10
  • Ultrasaur: 7/14
  • Eldritch Horror: 6/10
  • Gruul: 7/7, at the end of each turn, gain +1/+1
  • Blood of the Ancient One: 9/9

The average stat sticks, worth around 8 mana:

  • Molten Giant: 8/8
  • Arcane Giant: 8/8
  • Mountain Giant: 8/8
  • Sea Giant: 8/8
  • Alexstrasza: 8/8
  • Nozdormu: 8/8
  • Onyxia: 8/8
  • Doomcaller: 7/9

The below average stat sticks:

  • Medivh, the Guardian: 7/7
  • Primordial Drake: 4/8, Taunt
  • The Boogeymonster: 6/7, whenever this attacks and kills a minion, gain +2/+2
  • C’Thun: 6/6
  • N’Zoth, the Corruptor: 5/7
  • Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End: 7/5

The big whiffs:

  • Tortollan Primalist: 5/4
  • Ozruk: 5/5, Taunt
  • Mayor Noggenfogger: 5/4, all targets are chosen randomly

Overall, you have 6 minions that could see actual play, 7 good stat minions, 8 average stat minions, 6 below-average stat minions, and 3 bad stat minions.

However, when you discover things, you are given three options to choose from. So, how likely are you to find something good?

  • 50% to find at least one minion that could see play as a minion
  • 83% to find at least one minion that could see play or has good stats
  • 98% to find at least one minion that could see play, or has good or at least average stats
  • 03% chance to be offered the three abysmal options

You also have a 36% chance to discover a Taunt minion, if any taunt will do. It could be just a 5/5, but at least it’s a taunt.

What about Forbidden Shaping? (also synergy with Medivh/Atiesh)

The nearest comparison to Free from Amber is Forbidden Shaping, a spell that summons a random minion, and one that you most of the time want to play for 8 mana for the best probability to get a good effect.

Incidentally, casting Free from Amber with Atiesh in hand has the same effect as casting both Free from Amber and an 8-mana Forbidden Shaping, so let’s take a closer look at what we’re getting here:

Minions that could see play as minions when playing Control Priest:

  • Al’Akir the Windlord: 3/5, Windfury, Charge, Divine Shield, Taunt
  • Charged Devilsaur: 7/7, Charge
  • Grommash Hellscream: 4/9, Charge, Enrage +6 attack
  • Ragnaros, Lightlord: 8/8, at the end of your turn, restore 8 health to a damaged friendly character
  • Tirion Fordring: 8/8, Divine Shield, Taunt, Deathrattle: Equip a 5/3 Ashbringer

The big stats sticks, generally worth more than 8 mana from a stat point of view:

  • Eldritch Horror: 6/10
  • Gruul: 7/7, at the end of each turn, gain +1/+1
  • Ironbark Protector: 8/8, Taunt

The average stat sticks, worth around 8 mana:

  • Doomcaller: 7/9
  • Giant Sand Worm: 8/8, whenever this minion attacks and kills a minion, it may attack again

The below average stat sticks:

  • Kalimos, Primal Lord: 7/7
  • Medivh, the Guardian: 7/7
  • Primordial Drake: 4/8 Taunt
  • The Boogeymonster: 6/7, whenever this attacks and kills a minion, gain +2/+2

The big whiffs:

  • Anomalus: 8/6, deathrattle deal 8 damage to all minions (occasionally useful, mostly not)
  • Tortollan Primalist: 5/4

So, there are 16 eight-mana minions in Standard format right now. 5 of them are good enough to see play, 3 have really good stats, 2 have average stats, 4 have below-average stats, and 2 are generally bad.

Also, this is not a discover, so you do not get the huge benefit of choosing from three options. Therefore, you have:

  • 31% to get a minion that could see play as a minion
  • 50% to get a minion that could see play or has good stats
  • 63% to get a minion that could see play, or has good or at least average stats

You also have a 25% chance to get a minion with Taunt.

Therefore, Free from Amber is better than Forbidden Shaping when played at 8 mana: while Forbidden Shaping has a better pool of minions, the discover mechanic pulls Free from Amber clearly ahead, not to mention that Free from Amber can be combined with Atiesh whereas Forbidden Shaping (a 0-mana spell!) cannot.

We can also calculate some probabilities for Free from Amber + Atiesh synergy with these figures:

  • 66% chance to get at least one great minion (16% to get two)
  • 92% chance to get at least one great minion or a minion with good stats (42% to get two)
  • 99% chance to get at least one great minion or a minion with good or at least average stats (62% to get two)

You also have a 52% chance to get at least one Taunt minion.

In other words, with Atiesh in your hand, you get at least one great minion on the board two times out of three when casting Free from Amber (as compared to 50% with Free from Amber alone) and you will get at least two big stat sticks on the board four times out of ten. I can see how this can win games.

Control Priest with Free from Amber

For an example of a deck that runs Free from Amber, here is Xhope’s Ferrari-winning Control Priest deck from the China versus Europe Championship 2017:

Conclusions

Free from Amber as such is not good enough to be used: you only get a minion that you could consider playing in the deck as such half of the time. It is only when combined with Medivh/Atiesh that the card becomes good enough to use. In a slow meta, or if enough survivability can fit in the deck regardless, such a combo can find a spot in Priest decks, especially when helped by the incredible tutoring ability of Shadow Visions, enabling you to play multiple Free from Ambers in slow matchups and to find it more easily.

Perhaps the ability to turn your Shadow Visions into big minions for slow matchups could be enough to justify running Free from Amber even without Medivh, but you generally have better value targets, such as Un’Goro Pack from Elise, so it seems that Medivh is a key piece to the puzzle.

Likewise, Medivh/Atiesh does not have a lot of good synergy cards in Priest, but Free from Amber gives it a good one. These cards go hand-in-hand when it comes to slow Priest decks.

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