With the release of Whispers of the Old Gods expansion and the associated Standard format approaching, there were many questions about the viability of Zoo in the new meta. Zoo was going to lose a number of its best cards, such as Haunted Creeper, Nerubian Egg, and Loatheb, and with all those sticky options gone, would a board-control based strategy still be strong?
As it turns out, yes, it is still strong. In fact, it is scary strong.
When Blizzard announced that they would introduce rotating formats to Hearthstone, they also remarked that Basic and Classic cards would remain playable in the upcoming Standard format that otherwise rotates card sets out on annual basis. In order to achieve this, there would be changes – in practice, nerfs.
Aggro Shaman, or Face Shaman, is one of the most recent deck archetypes introduced into Hearthstone. While it traces its roots to Mech Shaman, it was the League of Explorers and especially the Tunnel Trogg that was released in it that gave life to this highly aggressive deck.
The early story of Aggro Shaman was covered on Liquidhearth when it was brand new, but it has since evolved, especially so in the past few weeks, so it is a good time to take a look at this cheap and effective deck.
When the deck was covered on Liquidhearth, builds still had two distinct directions. Luffy’s Overload style and Reynad’s more mech-based approach. In the next few weeks after the article, Luffy’s core emerged victorious as a faster and more stable variant.
Hearthstone is a free-to-play collectible card game. If that sounds strange, collectible card games are known to cost a ton to play, after all, it kind of is. Hearthstone does live up to its name in the sense that if you play a lot, you can actually unlock everything in the game for free and even have a full collection.
Typically collecting cards for free involves becoming a good Arena player and playing Arena a lot for the rewards as other means of collecting in-game gold and cards are rather slow. However, you really need to be a good player to benefit from Arena, as with mediocre performances you are better off simply buying card packs instead of Arena access with your in-game gold.
So, let’s say you want to improve your card collection a bit faster or just don’t have the time or dedication to grind for everything – games are played for fun, after all, and if you have the means to have fun faster, why not go for it. You are probably still interested in getting a good deal though, so what is the best way to spend real money on Hearthstone?
Rogue is a peculiar class in Hearthstone. It has never really been a mainstream class – the closest it got was pre-nerf Miracle Rogue – but even then its representation was not representative of its power level.
The old Miracle Rogue died in two hits. First with the Leeroy Jenkins nerf from four mana to five in September 2014 and then the Gadgetzan Auctioneer nerf from five mana to six a couple of months later. All that was left was the ever-green balancing meme from Blizzard’s announcement:
“Leeroy Jenkins created a strategy that revolved around trying to defeat your opponent in one turn without requiring any cards on the board. Fighting for board control and battles between minions make an overall game of Hearthstone more fun and compelling, but taking 20+ damage in one turn is not particularly fun or interactive.” Source
Throughout all this time, however, Rogue has remained viable and enthusiasts insist on playing it both on ladder and in tournaments. The latest successful example is Dog’s second-place finish in the Insomnia57 Truesilver Championship. Rogue was also part of Amnesiac’s lineup in his first-place finish in the Americas Winter Championships 2016, part of lineups of both Orange (winner) and SuperJJ (second place) at Dreamhack Leipzig in January 2016 as well as part of Ostkaka’s World Championship winning lineup at Blizzcon 2015. Clearly podium finishes are not strange for the class.
The Warlock Zoo deck is a combination of three elements. First are the efficient minions to claim the board. Second are the buffs which enable trades. Finally is the Warlock Hero Power to keep the engine running.
The Zoo concept that will never be completely out of fashion. Playing more cards than your opponent always creates opportunities and the Warlock Hero Power is ideal to support such a game plan. Zoo decks existed in Hearthstone already before the first expansion – and while the Shieldbearers, Shattered Sun Clerics, and Harvest Golems were replaced – the archetype itself is still alive and kicking.
The fortunes of Zoo have varied, but it has always been present. Right now, Zoo is living its golden age, and is one of the strongest decks for many players. Both Midrange Druid and Secret Paladin are weak to an aggressive board control strategy. Given the popularity of these decks there is plenty of prey for Zoo to hunt. The Druid population also keeps the greatest nemesis of Zoo, Freeze Mage, at bay.
Something new to Hearthstone happened in the recent Curse Trials tournament that really caught my eye. G2 Esports (Lifecoach, RDU, Thijs) had spent time creating and testing decks together and they all brought the same lineup to the tournament, much like teams in Magic do (for example, think ChannelFireball, Face-to-Face Games, and East West Bowl in the Pro Tour Gate of the Oathwatch recently). This had not happened in Hearthstone before, but it is interesting to speculate whether this kind of team environment could become commonplace.
With the Standard format fast approaching, it will soon be time to re-evaluate some of the established truths and choices when it comes to selecting cards for Hearthstone decks. However, there are some cards that are already great when used properly, but that do not receive the appreciation they deserve – much to the delight of the few players who have realized their power.
An invitational tournament that was widely characterized as the first Hearthstone tournament to use the Standard format, Curse Trials, was played out over the past three days.
Now, the big caveat here is that Curse Trials had very little to do with Standard: it was the current card pool with Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes banned. So, it was trying to emulate Standard by banning the cards that will rotate out of Standard with the next expansion while not incorporating the upcoming changes to cards that will stay nor, obviously, having access to the spring 2016 expansion that will be part of the first Standard rotation.
Nonetheless, maybe we can learn something from the tournament. Let’s dig deeper into the lineups and their performance to see what we can find.