Malkorok in Journey to Un’Goro

With the Standard rotation that took place together with Hearthstone’s Journey to Un’Goro expansion launch, there are some old cards that warrant a re-examination as the pool of cards they draw from for their effect has changed. One such card is Malkorok.

The Warrior class legendary introduced in Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, Malkorok initially saw play in Tempo Warrior, but fell out of fashion as midrange Warrior builds were increasingly centered around dragons.

Furthermore, there was a boogieman in the closet: Cursed Blade, a weapon that could cause you to lose the game, and famously did even in top-level LAN tournaments, such as at Dreamhack Austin 2016 (Kitkatz’s Tempo Warrior vs Reynad’s Aggro Shaman).

There is some good news for Malkorok in Un’Goro though: Dragon Warrior is gone from Standard, and so is Cursed Blade – no more losing the game just because you equip a random weapon!

So, is Malkorok now good enough to see play again?

Malkorok weapon pool in Journey to Un’Goro Standard format

Malkorok’s 6/5 body itself is worth around five mana, so at seven mana that leaves around two mana as the cost of his effect. How likely are you going to get a good return on that two-mana investment?

In Hearthstone Standard format, there are currently 23 weapons you can get from Malkorok, so there is a 4.35% chance to get each. The weapons, roughly from best to worst, are:

  • Gorehowl (Classic): 7/1 that loses attack instead of durability when attacking a minion
  • Gladiator’s Longbow (Classic): 5/2 that makes your hero immune while attacking
  • Vinecleaver (Journey to Un’Goro): 4/3 that summons two 1/1 Silverhand Recruits after you attack
  • Doomhammer (Classic): 2/8 with Windfury
  • Arcanite Reaper (Basic): 5/2
  • Assassin’s Blade (Basic): 3/4
  • Fool’s Bane (One Night in Karazhan): 3/4, unlimited attacks, cannot attack heroes
  • Hammer of Twilight (Whispers of the Old Gods): 4/2, deathrattle to summon a 4/2 Elemental
  • Truesilver Champion (Basic): 4/2, heals your hero for 2 when you attack with it
  • Piranha Launcher (Mean Streets of Gadgetzan): 2/4 that summons a 1/1 after you attack
  • Brass Knuckles (Mean Streets of Gadgetzan): 2/3 that gives a random minion in your hand +1/+1 after you attack
  • Obsidian Shard (Journey to Un’Goro): 3/3
  • Eaglehorn Bow (Classic), Rallying Blade (Whispers of the Old Gods), Fiery War Axe (Basic): 3/2 (battlecries will not trigger so all of them are equal when gained from Malkorok)
  • Sword of Justice (Classic): 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 (Whispers of the Old Gods): 2/2, deathrattle to return it to your hand
  • Stormforged Axe (Classic): 2/3
  • Perdition’s Blade (Classic), Jade Claws (Mean Streets of Gadgetzan): 2/2
  • Spirit Claws (One Night in Karazhan): 1/3, +2 attack while you have spell damage
  • Light’s Justice (Basic): 1/4
  • Molten Blade: 1/1

Thus, there are 12 weapons (Gorehowl, Gladiator’s Longbow, Vinecleaver, Doomhammer, Arcanite Reaper, Assassin’s Blade, Fool’s Bane, Hammer of Twilight, Truesilver Champion, Piranha Launcher, Brass Knuckles, and Obsidian Shard) the value of which unconditionally surpasses the mana cost. That’s a 52% chance to get a good result.

There are also 6 weapons (Eaglehorn Bow, Rallying Blade, Fiery War Axe, Sword of Justice, Tentacles for Arms, and Stormforged Axe) that are worth just about what you pay for. That’s a 26% chance to break even.

Finally, there are 5 below-average outcomes (Perdition’s Blade, Jade Claws, Spirit Claws, Light’s Justice, and Molten Blade) that are hardly worth the mana cost. That’s a 22% chance to roll low – and a 0% chance to roll on-the-spot-game-losing low!

Looking at the weapon pool alone, Malkorok is now better than it has ever been before! Combined with the recent rotation, this should encourage people to use the card.

Is there a deck for Malkorok?

Alas, a good card in isolation does nothing. Warlock has plenty of good cards, but there are no widely-used solid Warlock decks right now.

For Malkorok, the right environment has always been a tempo or midrange deck. Warrior as a class sees a lot of play and some experimentation as well, but the established archetypes are Pirate Warrior (an aggro deck) and Taunt Warrior (a control deck). Old-school Control Warrior, with or without N’Zoth, also sees constant experimentation, as the archetype has lots of fans, but what about Tempo Warrior?

Dragon Warrior as a tempo/midrange deck seems to be dead. I even tried to verify it for myself by running a number of different builds, but the pool of dragons available to Warrior after the standard rotation is just pitifully weak. I don’t recommend trying to build around them, or if you do, it probably has to be some kind of Control Warrior variant, as those expensive dragons take a big toll on your mana curve.

The non-dragon Tempo Warrior, however, was not a useless deck even late in the previous rotation, it was just not fashionable. That is a core around which a deck running Malkorok can be built, and I am fairly confident a good version of such a deck can be found.

In fact, Malkorok has already been played to Legend. This was accomplished by the French pro player Tars on season 38 (May 2017) running this Tempo Warrior list (Tars’ original tweet about the deck):

Conclusions

To sum this all up, Malkorok is now better than ever and I expect it to see play in whatever Tempo/Midrange Warrior decks people come up with. This space is still underexplored, but Tars has already played such a list to Legend, so the proof-of-concept is there, and lists can still get better.

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