Knights of the Frozen Throne card review: Howling Commander

Hearthstone’s Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion card reveal season is underway! We can expect to see multiple cards revealed on daily basis leading up to the expansion itself.

In this post, I take an in-depth look at Howling Commander.

Howling Commander

Howling Commander is a Rare Paladin class card from Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion. It is a three-mana 2/2 minion with a Battlecry to draw a Divine Shield minion from your deck.

Drawing specific cards from your deck is a powerful effect. Arcanologist, for example, has been a phenomenal card for Mage, allowing them to reliably find their Secrets for synergies or simply for defense. Blizzard is strongly pushing Divine Shield Paladin in Knights of the Frozen Throne, so tutoring for Divine Shield minions should likewise be strong, right?

Or maybe not.

First of all, Howling Commander pays a hefty price for its draw effect: 2/2 stats for three mana is really bad. It’s Kabal Courier bad. But hey, Kabal Courier sees some play, right? Indeed, it does, in slow, value-based Mage decks that are happy to generate additional resources and can use the 2/2 body together with spells and their Hero Power to remove some early-game minions, even mid-game minions, from their opponent. Alas, many of those decks have chosen to cut the Kabal Courier as of late as simply too slow.

The parallels are not favorable for Howling Commander: you do not generate additional resources with Howling Commander, you merely draw a card from your deck. This can have its upsides, as cards that you put in your deck should be pretty good. You can even control what you draw with it to an extent by limiting the number of Divine Shield minions in your deck. However, once you go down that path, you run the risk of drawing the Divine Shield minions before Howling Commander, making it worthless – a risk that you do not have with Kabal Courier.

Comparison with Arcanologist is not favorable either: a three-mana 2/2 versus a two-mana 2/3. What? Arcanologist draws a card, kills the Howling Commander next turn, and remains on the board, laughing out loud. It even draws a card that is more central to the Mage’s gameplan than what Howling Commander draws for Paladin!

So, who would like to play Howling Commander?

Aggro Paladin is not interested. Even if it is based on Divine Shields, it really, really does not want to spend three mana for 2/2 stats. If you go all-out aggro, just run Divine Favor instead.

Midrange Paladin is not interested. If it’s a Murloc build, it has a lot more going on at three mana than playing a non-synergy 2/2. If a Divine Shield build comes up, it too wants to throw down a Rallying Blade, a Stonehill Defender, or a Wickerflame Burnbristle, not a minion that loses all tempo and is easily killed. It also receives the most uncertain reward, as it includes more Divine Shield minions than the other decks: you may end up with Tirion, or with an Argent Squire.

Control Paladin does not care about Howling Commander either. If Control Paladin wants to draw cards, it plays an Acolyte of Pain on three. It can also choose to simply generate cards out of thin air with Stonehill Defender. It also has a very real prospect of playing until close to fatigue, and top-decking a three-mana 2/2 with no effect in the late game is not part of its gameplan.

Targeted card draw can be powerful. However, Howling Commander is very expensive for what it does, and it also does not draw anything you specifically need. Mage wants its Secrets. Paladin either has a bunch of Divine Shield minions in the deck (if it is a Divine Shield build) so that the draw is just about as useful as any other draw, or Divine Shield minions are not the focus of its gameplan, in which case the targeted draw is still not much better than any card draw.

A two-mana 1/1 that draws a card does not see play (Novice Engineer). Why would a three-mana 2/2 with the same effect be better? I guess it cannot be killed with a Hero Power, but it can be traded into by many one-drops and any two-drops, often without the attacking minion dying itself. It simply does not make the cut, especially when competing against Stonehill Defender and Acolyte of Pain.