The Knights of the Frozen Throne Hearthstone expansion **SPOILERS** are officially upon us, and the set release draws ever closer. Below we’ve laid out 10 of the cards – in no particular order – we think will most likely slot into the meta, or help create new archetypes of their own.
With quite a lot of potential power, and some new themes and identities emerging among the more linear classes, Knights of the Frozen Throne will surely shake up the meta, and hopefully for the better.
Ultimate Infestation is nothing like we’ve seen printed in Hearthstone before. Our closest analogue is a Magic: The Gathering card called Cruel Ultimatum, which did fairly similar things as the new Druid epic spell. Unlike MTG, though, Hearthstone has stricter limitations on cards as a resource, with fatigue being a much more common mechanic than its Magic counterpart. Ultimate Infestation, on the surface, is one of the most powerful spells we’ve seen printed, easily up there with pre-nerf Call of the Wild. The only downside, obviously, is how negative card draw ends up being in control mirrors. However, Druid has access to, as far as I’m aware, the only infinitely recurring anti-fatigue combo in the game with Jade Idol. If Control Druid ends up being an archetype in the coming metagame, expect to see the recursion engine of Jade Idol help fuel Ultimate Infestation’s absurd card advantage
The leader of the Death Knights was revealed as near to the end of the spoiler season as possible, but he was worth the wait. An 8 mana 8/8 with taunt isn’t something to write home about, but he generates at least one guaranteed Death Knight card, similar to Ysera’s functionality with her Dream cards. However, the power level of the Death Knight cards seems considerably higher, topped off with Arthas’s weapon, Frostmourne itself, reviving every minion it killed as its deathrattle. Not to mention, Arthas’s front-end is way more threatening than Ysera’s. The Lich King also effects the board the turn he comes into play, presenting a beefy presence that every control deck will likely want to include, provided a slow enough metagame.
The new Warlock sweeper is an interesting concept. The whirlwind effect is a welcomed addition to the arsenal of sweepers available to the class, but the core backbone for Warlock to return to the meta just doesn’t seem to be there. Defile slots in to both aggressive lists and control lists, though, as a more aggressive zoo-type list can play around the recast, or use their own minions to set up a huge swing in board control. Obviously control lists will like this card more, but I can’t see a control Warlock deck cropping up with the tools it has available to it.
Well, Rotface won’t be nearly as annoying and consistently powerful as Grim Patron was, but what an effect! With the arsenal of whirlwind effects available to the class, and the addition of a retooled Death’s Bite with TWO whirlwinds attached to it, Rotface could easily summon an arsenal of legendary minions that many decks simply will never be able to come back from.
This card doesn’t seem that great on its surface, I’ll admit. But I’m going to defer to a bit of insider information that Team 5 developer Iksar discussed on twitter. In a conversation about the card with popular streamer Disguised Toast, Iksar mentioned that the card was only 4 mana in testing, and that it was one of the more overpowered cards in the entire set.
Fun fact. This card was at (4) until near the end of final design. Was one of the more powerful cards in the set.
— August Dean Ayala (@IksarHS) August 6, 2017
Was surprising to us as well. The worst case scenario was 1 for 1, almost always get a 2 for 1.
— August Dean Ayala (@IksarHS) August 6, 2017
While the card did see a bump to 5 mana, it gives Druid access to the one thing it has never really had before – efficient big minion removal. Previously, Druid almost always gave up card advantage to rid the board of a huge threat immediately, either through multiple direct damage spells or inherently negative CA cards like Naturalize. Webweave presents a situation where it’s almost always at parity, either use a card to remove them, or let the Druid player choose which minion bites the dust.
Finally! Loatheb has returned to rescue us from the horrors of Freeze Mage. While Loatheb did a lot of things too effectively, namely generate a free turn for aggressive decks to flood the board, Nerubian Unraveler has a similar effect, but at a more fair cost. The ability to stall your opponent for just one more turn is often all that’s needed for decks to push through against Freeze Mage or other heavy-spell based decks, and Nerubian Unraveler provides not only that, but consistently as long as it remains on the board, almost always drawing a removal spell from your opponent an extra tax to their mana.
Aggressive decks have been, in a word, dominant for the last year or two of Hearthstone’s lifespan. Blizzard’s heard your cries, though, and given us plenty of tools against aggressive decks in Knights of the Frozen Throne. Saronite Chain Gang represents 4/6 of stats on turn 4, a nasty stonewall for any swarm decks like the various Murloc-based or aggressive Hunter strategies. Being a neutral minion is huge, as it gives any archetype access to an early game stall game, which has definitely been lacking in the meta for a while. Drakkari Defender gives Shaman an even beefier wall, and combined with the tools the deck already has, could put Shaman in position to present an impressive control deck to the metagame.
We’ve seen what happens when Mages get free cards in the past, and this is surely no exception. Secret-based strategies have already seen plenty of play in competitive Hearthstone, and Mage certainly has its share of very powerful secret effects, including another new card that gives the Mage player 2 copies of the next minion cast by its opponent.
Hunter has seen a bit of a shift in its identity with the cards printed in Knights of the Frozen Throne, with a lot more of a controlling strategy afforded to the once king of aggression. Stitched Tracker presents an early body and guaranteed card advantage, something Hunter has traditionally lacked, while Toxic Arrow brings an incredibly versatile removal spell to the table. At 2 mana, it clears many potential early game threats, while giving you a pure removal spell lategame when combined with any minion on your side of the board with 3 or more health. As I feel both are key cards in any type of Control Hunter archetype that crops up, I’ve listed them together.
(and all the other Death Knight Heroes)
Essentially every single one of the Death Knight heroes is an enormous, game changing effect that can define several archetypes across all the classes. Uther’s is, perhaps, the most interesting, as he gives you a lifestealing Ashbringer, 5 points of armor, and an Exodia hero power. The powerful Yu-gi-oh meme is finally making its way to Hearthstone, should you be able to summon all 4 Death Knights from Uther’s new hero power. Similar to Shaman totems, you won’t summon a duplicate of one you’ve already got in play, and the hero power can present a swift clock to any deck that’s losing the attrition war, and a fairly strong defense against fatigue in general.
By far the best design decision with these cards was to attach armor to them. Giving you the extra life needed to take advantage of such an enormous effect is huge, and Blizzard has done a good job of hopefully ushering a slower, more meticulous Hearthstone metagame with this expansion.