Knights of the Frozen Throne card reviews: Chillblade Champion, Shallow Gravedigger, Spirit Lash, and Prince Keleseth

The first cards from Hearthstone’s Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion were revealed yesterday when the expansion was officially announced.

In this post, I will take an in-depth look at the revealed cards: Chillblade Champion, Shallow Gravedigger, Spirit Lash, and Prince Keleseth. I have already reviewed Deathstalker Rexxar in depth earlier here.

Lifesteal mechanic

Lifesteal is a new keyword in Hearthstone. Whenever your minion or spell with Lifesteal deals damage, you are healed for the amount of damage dealt.

The idea is by no means new. The exact same mechanic has been around in Magic: The Gathering since 2007 as Lifelink, and it is also part of Eternal card game as Lifesteal and with almost identical graphical representation as in Hearthstone as well. The mechanic has also been part of Hearthstone for a long time: Mistress of Pain and Wickerflame Burnbristle are both Lifesteal cards in all but name, and after the expansion they will be changed to have the keyword in their card text.

It is also notable that the interaction between Auchenai Soulpriest and Lifesteal effects will be changed in the expansion. Currently, when a Lifesteal card deals damage, it attempts to heal you, but if you have an Auchenai Soulpriest on the board, that healing is turned into damage, which the Lifesteal card then interprets as having dealt damage, so it attempts to heal you again, but it is actually damage, so… And then you die. After the expansion release, Auchenai Soulpriest will deal damage from Lifesteal only once, preventing this fatal loop.

Chillblade Champion

Chillblade Champion is a common Paladin class card from Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion. It is a four-mana 3/2 minion with Charge and Lifesteal.

Chillblade Champion does not look particularly impressive, but there is one thing of note about it: Charge. Blizzard has been very careful about creating new cards with Charge, as the mechanic is potentially very powerful.

Perhaps Chillblade Champion can find a spot in handbuff decks, if there are any in the new meta. As it heals your Hero and has Charge, perhaps it can even replace a weapon for use as combined removal and heal. Maybe there is a way to fit it in an aggressive deck because of the Charge.

Alas, Chillblade Champion is yet another four-mana card for Paladin, and that four-mana slot is heavily contested in the class: Truesilver Champion, Blessing of Kings, and Consecration are all there to compete for those four-mana slots in a deck. Paladins use a lot of Murlocs nowadays, so Gentle Megasaur is also a contender. A card has to be able to do a lot to get one of those coveted four-mana slots in Paladin.

Shallow Gravedigger

Shallow Gravedigger is a rare neutral card from Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion. It is a three-mana 3/1 minion with a Deathrattle to add a random Deathrattle minion to your hand.

The 3/1 statline for three mana is not at all impressive: the minion is bound to get traded away by a smaller minion or a Hero Power. There is already a three-mana 3/1 Deathrattle minion in the game, Eggnapper. That minion sees occasional play because it is sticky: its Deathrattle summons two 1/1 Beasts, which is a useful tribal tag.

Shallow Gravedigger is not sticky. It is a value card for Deathrattle synergies. Maybe there will be some Deathrattle synergies in the new set that make it good, but as it is, it does not seem to find a good place. What Deathrattle deck would need an easily-dealt-with value minion? N’Zoth decks don’t need the value, they prefer their deathrattles sticky and already have plenty. Quest Priests already have plenty as well, and you can’t even take value trades and heal the Shallow Gravedigger unless you buff it first, so its statline is a poor match for Priest.

In the current, pre-expansion Standard format, there are 59 Deathrattle minions. Because the effect of Shallow Gravedigger is random, you can also get minions from other classes. However, more than half of the Deathrattle minions cost three mana or less, so don’t expect to hit those Tirions and Cairnes all that often.

Spirit Lash

Spirit Lash is a common Priest class card from Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion. It is a two-mana spell with Lifesteal that deals one damage to all minions.

It is an interesting card with a lot of potential, but also some hurdles on the way so it might not make it to many Priest decks.

Priestly area-of-effect damage with Lifesteal is extremely potent for combos: if there are eight minions on the board, including a Lightwarden, and you cast this, you are getting healed eight times, and the Lightwarden will be buffed eight times for a total of +16 attack.

Small amounts of damage can also be used with Northshire Cleric and Circle of Healing to draw cards, but then the question is whether running Wild Pyromancer is simply better. Perhaps there is room for both in a deck.

One potential hurdle is the lack of spell damage bonuses in Priest. If you want to use Spirit Lash to stabilize against aggro, one damage is generally not going to be enough. Combining it with any source of additional spell damage, such as Bloodmage Thalnos, makes it a lot more attractive, but Priest decks have a hard time fitting in any spell damage minions.

Definitely a card to watch, but not necessarily a winner.

Prince Keleseth

Prince Keleseth is a legendary neutral card from Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion. It is a two-mana 2/2 minion with a Battlecry to give all minions in your deck +1/+1 if your deck has no two-cost cards in it.

We have had highlander cards in Hearthstone before that require you to not have duplicates in your deck in order for their effect to activate. Prince Keleseth continues this tradition with a bit of a different criterion, no two-cost cards. That includes all two-cost cards, whether minions, spells, or weapons.

In order to evaluate the card, there are some important considerations: how good is the effect, and how tough is the criterion to satisfy?

The effect is OK, but nothing too special. The Mistcaller had a similar, actually slightly more powerful effect, as it buffed both your hand and deck, whereas Prince Keleseth only buffs your deck. The Mistcaller nonetheless saw no play as it was way too slow. Sometimes, it was nice to buff minions just outside key break points, just out of reach of removal, for example, but overall the effect was not game-winning. It is not a Reno Jackson and not even a Kazakus potion, especially with the Prince who does not even buff the minions in your hand.

How tough is the criterion to satisfy? Very, very tough. There are tons of good two-cost cards. Control deck rely on the two-mana slot for much of their removal and most classes have some really powerful two-drops to play for tempo. The two-mana slot is important for Pirate synergies as well as Murloc synergies.

Looking at the list of key cards below, Paladin and Warlock are the only classes that could really even consider running Prince Keleseth. So maybe some kind of aggressive Paladin build with Divine Favor and Small-Time Recruits? Can it be any better than a Murloc synergy build – it would lose Hydrologist and Rockpool Hunter. Probably it is worse. Maybe something new for Warlock? Multiple Zoo staples are neutral two-cost minions, so that looks unlikely as well.

I can’t figure out where Prince Keleseth could see play yet.

Some key two-mana cards:

Druid:

  • Wrath
  • Wild Growth
  • Mark of Y’Shaarj
  • Power of the Wild

Hunter:

  • All Hunter Secrets
  • Crackling Razormaw
  • Scavenging Hyena
  • Kindly Grandmother

Mage:

  • Frostbolt
  • Primordial Glyph
  • Medivh’s Valet
  • Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Pyros

Paladin:

  • Equality
  • Hydrologist
  • Grimestreet Outfitter
  • Argent Protector

Priest:

  • Radiant Elemental
  • Shadow Word: Pain
  • Shadow Visions
  • Divine Spirit

Rogue:

  • Eviscerate
  • Sap
  • Razorpetal Lasher

Shaman:

  • Jade Claws
  • Devolve
  • Maelstrom Portal
  • Flametongue Totem
  • Primalfin Totem

Warlock:

  • ?

Warrior:

  • Fiery War Axe
  • Battle Rage
  • Execute
  • Heroic Strike
  • Sleep with the Fishes
  • Slam
  • Armorsmith

Neutral:

  • Acidic Swamp Ooze
  • Bloodmage Thalnos
  • Bloodsail Raider
  • Bluegill Warrior
  • Crazed Alchemist
  • Dire Wolf Alpha
  • Dirty Rat
  • Doomsayer
  • Golakka Crawler
  • Knife Juggler
  • Rockpool Hunter
  • Sunfury Protector
  • Wild Pyromancer

Conclusions

The rest of the card reveals will begin in around two weeks, this was just a small taste of things to come. Things definitely look interesting!

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