Recently, Blizzard announced last week that Hearthstone would join the path of its cousin Magic: The Gathering by introducing a rotating format known as Standard. Standard will consist of the newest expansions and adventures, while the previous years expansion and adventure will rotate out.
What does this mean? Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes will no longer be Standard legal with the introduction of the new expansion. Are the cards gone forever? Well, the in-game shop will no longer sell GvG packs nor Curse wings. However, you will still be able to craft all the cards from both sets with dust.
Why would I want to craft old cards that aren’t legal anymore? In addition to Standard, there will be a legacy format called “Wild” where all expansions and adventures will be legal. Wild will have ranked and causal ladder (with rewards) but likely will not be the premier format that competitive Hearthstone and the Twitch community will focus on.
Personally, I think I am alright with these changes. Along with 9 new deck slots, the game will be drastically different than what we’ve known the past couple years. With a naturally shifting metagame, new decks and strategies will arise season after season, and new design space will be available when key staples rotate.
With the new format on the horizon, lets take a look at the biggest casualties of the format rotation.
#1 Dr. Boom
Dr. Boom will no longer be wrecking havoc on turn 7 on ladder. While many predicted that Dr. 7’s demise would be at the hands of a balance change, he will likely be the highest value casualty to the rotation.
Dr. Boom has been a staple in nearly every archtype, even finding his way into aggressive, low-curve decks simply due to his power level. People have cried for a nerf since his introduction in GvG, but to no avail. The good Doctor’s rotation is particulary painful for me, as I recently crafted him (finally) so I only had a couple seasons worth of Boom Bot goodness.
Immediate replacement? There are really no cards that fit the bill to replace “the best legendary.” You can always build-your-own with War Golem and two Wisps. Kappa.
#2 Piloted Shredder
The stickiest of minions will no longer occupy the 4-slot in every deck. Like Dr. Boom, Shredder was a auto-include regardless of deck strategy. Lesser four drops were relegated to low tier status, despite untimely Doomsayer drops.
The loss of Shredder might actually be a good example of how new design can open up the game. While Boom was a single legendary at a high mana cost, Shredder was a midrange card that effectively made other 4 drops useless. Why have Water Elemental when you can have Shredder?
Immediate replacement? Chillwind Yeti will likely get some love. The aforementioned Water Elemental will now have a use. Most likely, new cards from the expansion will help round out the older class 4 drops for some variety.
#3 Death’s Bite
Fiery Win Axe’s cousin will no longer clear Violet Teacher tokens nor trigger Grim Patron. Death’s Bite has found its place in every single relevant warrior deck, but will now be laid to rest.
Control and Patron Warrior, the two main competitve Warrior archtypes, both relied on heavily on the board control of the 4 drop weapon, along with its whirlwind effect to trigger Patron’s, Grommash’s, and Execute targets. The loss of Death’s Bite will be tough for Warrior, although I see new weapons to fill its space.
Immediate replacement? Death’s Bite was its own niche that combined Warriors love of sweep and weapon. Arcanite Reaper is a poor replacement, and Gorehowl is a little slow for the tempo swing of a Bite. Another tough casualty.
#4 Mad Scientist
For Science! Mad Scientist has fueled OP decks like Undertaker Deathrattle, and has helped Mage players copy opposing Azure Drakes for years. Was there a better two drop in the game?
Mad Scientist played a critical role in Midrange and Face Hunter, pulling traps to build value and thin the deck. Tempo and Freeze Mage also relied on the madman to pull Mirror Entities and Ice Blocks to stay alive post-Alexstrasza.
Immediate replacement? Again, Mad Scientist was a unique card with a unique effect, increasing reliance on his special ability to fuel particular strategies. While Mysterious Challenger trumps his effect in Paladin, other classes do not have similar effects, and now will be more reliant on drawing and playing traps, likely reducing the amount of traps in future decks.
#5 Muster for Battle/Shielded Minibot
Back in the day, Paladin was considered trash tier, along with its friends Priest and Shaman. Paladin was too slow and clunky to keep up with aggro, and lacked any great card advantage tools to compete with control.
Muster for Battle and Shielded Minibot gave Paladin great tempo and midgame cards to fuel aggressive and midrange strategies alike. Knife Juggler -> Muster was a devastating early combo that could clear minions or pile on damage. Shielded Minibot gave an effective trader that increased in value with a timely Blessing of Kings.
Immediate replacements? Knife Juggler will increase in importance in the two drop space, while Muster can be replaced by … Sword of Justice? Yikes. Like so many of the previous cards, these are hard to replace, and likely have counterparts in the new expansion to take up their mantle.
Bonus: Sludge Belcher
There are so many cards I could have included, and I already cheated with #5 including two cards, but the loss of the big chunky man himself needs to be acknowledged. Sludge Belcher singlehandedly slowed down an extremely fast meta, one ooze at a time.
Belcher helped slow down fast decks with his high toughness and taunted Slime follow-up. He gave control decks a turn or two to find the required Flamestrike or Lightbomb to regain control of the board. Without Belcher, the pestilence of aggro is likely to rise again.
Immediate replacement? Taz’dingo! Sen’jin Shieldmasta is another viable taunt that comes a turn earlier, and still has adequate toughness. One minion can clear him, though, so Sunwalker may also be a viable replacement. It comes a turn later, but survives bigger hits.
With the introduction of deck slots, I mean, Standard, Hearthstone’s meta variety will hopefully increase. League of Explorers went a long way to open up the meta, but with critical cards moving on, new blood will now get a serious look without immediate comparison to existing superiority.
Overall I’m excited to see what the new format will bring, and hope that the shifting formats will help keep deckbuilding fresh. Many of these cards have become auto-includes into most decks, and with the rebalancing of Classic cards also in the works, I can see a slew of new strategies grinding to Legend.