It’s been about 3 weeks since Knights of the Frozen Throne’s release. Since then, the meta has had time to settle down. Spout 360 ranks the most iconic cards from the set, the Death Knight hero cards, based on their performance thus far.
9. Deathstalker Rexxar
Arguably the worst Death Knight card so far, Deathstalker Rexxar is the latest attempt from Blizzard to push Hunter towards a slower, more control-type playstyle. The problem with this card is that it takes away Hunter’s most reliable win condition – the Steady Shot hero power.
Whilst Build-A-Beast provides a lot of value, having to pay 2 mana on top of the combined mana costs of the 2 beasts is often too slow and having your Zombeast answered by an efficient removal spell often allows the opponent to snowball his tempo advantage out of control. If Blizzard still wishes to push Control Hunter in the future, they should release cards that allow them to control or clear the board whilst putting the opponent on a clock with their hero power.
8. Frost Lich Jaina
The main promotional character of the set, it is a shame that elemental mage has gotten no other support with the release of Knights of the Frozen Throne. Elemental mage was also only a tier 3 deck in the Journey to Un’Goro meta. As it stands, at 9 mana, Frost Lich Jaina is too expensive for her measly battlecry of summoning a Water Elemental.
Her hero power is also too situational to be used effectively, requiring you to be able to set an enemy minion down to 1 health in order to get the Water Elemental. The reason why she’s above Rexxar is that there is still potential here – should the upcoming sets release cards that make elemental mage a viable deck, Frost Lich Jaina will become a linchpin of that deck.
7. Scourgelord Garrosh
Garrosh by himself is a fantastic card – his battlecry gives you 3 uses of a ‘mini-Flamestrike’, perfect for clearing the board. This is even more needed for Warrior as their other way of clearing the board is with the use of a brawl. Having ready access to a whirlwind effect is also amazing for Warrior, enabling Execute, Battle Rage and Sleep With The Fishes. There’s just one problem – he doesn’t have a place in the current iterations of warrior decks.
There are 2 types of warrior decks doing well on the ladder right now, Pirate Warrior, in which Garrosh is too expensive of a card to run, and Taunt Warrior, in which Garrosh can be played, albeit in a supporting role as the Bladestorm hero power will be eventually replaced with DIE, INSECT! from the quest reward, Sulfuras.
Should Control Warrior become the preferred deck of choice as compared to the hyper-aggressive Pirate Warrior, Scourgelord Garrosh shall become a force to be reckoned with. However, that doesn’t seem to be happening until the rotation of Patches The Pirate.
6. Valeera the Hollow
Valeera the Hollow is a card with a split personality. On one hand, her hero power is disgustingly powerful. On the other, she costs 9 mana with a battlecry that does essentially nothing. Taking a turn off in the late game in order to set Valeera up can often allow the opponent to seize the tempo advantage by developing their board whilst clearing yours.
Death’s Shadow, however, is an amazing hero power. It allows you to clone important cards like Arcane Giants, Jade Golem summoners and removal spells. The value to be found here is insane. Valeera has enabled niche decks such as Mill Rogue, where cloning Coldlight Oracles is the only reason the deck functions at all. Valeera takes the No.6 spot because of the insane value from the hero power and her involvement in a deck’s key strategy.
5. Uther of the Ebon Blade
Uther takes the middle spot because honestly, he’s a pretty boring card. The 5/3 weapon with lifesteal he equips certainly is powerful, and upgrading the hero power to summon 2/2s instead of 1/1s is pretty good as well. However, Uther just isn’t flashy enough or have a large enough impact on the board when he’s played to justify being placed higher on this list. He’s good at what he does, granted, but he does not open new paths for Paladin decks to explore.
4. Thrall, Deathseer
Thrall takes the fourth spot for one reason – he only costs five mana! He has seen play in many iterations of Shaman decks thus far, notably Evolve Shaman, Jade Shaman and Token Bloodlust Shaman. His ability to turn a board of small minions into a sizeable army is to be reckoned with. His hero power also provides great value as you can use a minion to trade with an enemy minion and evolve it to heal it and turn it into something possibly even better!
His low mana cost also means that he combos with Doppelgangster, allowing you to get three 7 mana minions for 10 mana, not counting any you had on the. And it doesn’t count any you had on the board to begin with.
Thrall’s versatility and battlecry value land him in our number 4 spot.
3. Bloodreaver Gul’dan
A surprise hit from this set, when Bloodreaver Gul’dan was first released the general consensus was that his mana cost was too high and there weren’t many good demons in the standard format to take advantage of his battlecry. The only one that stood out was Doomguard, and that stood a chance of discarding Gul’dan himself. Turns out, Despicable Dreadlord and Abyssal Enforcer were the only two demons you needed to run in a control deck reminiscent of the old ‘handlock’ style Warlock decks in order to get tremendous value out of Gul’dan’s battlecry.
Summoning four large demons, along with replacing your hero power with a 6 point life swing every turn has transformed Warlock into the butt of jokes and memes into a legitimate contender on the ladder. For reviving a ‘dead’ class and making it viable again, Bloodreaver Gul’Dan takes the number 3 spot.
2. Malfurion the Pestilent
Malfurion takes this spot because of the dominance of Druid decks on the ladder right now. Don’t let his mana cost fool you, Druid decks can consistently play Malfurion the Pestilent as early as turn four or five.
There also really isn’t a wrong time to play him. Empty board or opponent has one big minion? Summon 2 poisonous spiders and threaten to trade with whatever your opponent plays or has. Opponent has an army of small minions? Make 2 taunts and force them to trade. Or have both with Fandral Staghelm.
His hero power can also alternate between offence and defence depending on the situation. His flexibility, combined with the strength of Druid as a class right now with other key cards such as Ultimate Infestation makes Malfurion deserving of the second place spot.
1. Shadowreaper Anduin
Highlander, Kazakus, or Reno Priest as it is more popularly called pretty much died out after the rotation of its namesake, Reno Jackson. However, it burst back onto the scene with the addition of Shadowreaper Anduin. He combos with Raza the Chained to create a machine gun effect where you can consistently dish out four or six free damage a turn. His battlecry also removes all significant threats from the board, allowing the Priest to stabilize even if he loses board control early on.
The reason Anduin takes the top spot is that unlike Malfurion, who is just good to have, remove Anduin from Reno Priest and the deck becomes unplayable. Shadowreaper Anduin defines a top meta deck, only second in popularity to Druid decks. He also sees frequent play in other variations of Priest such as Big Priest and Dragon Priest that cannot reduce the cost of his hero power to zero. His battlecry is just THAT good.
Flexibility, power and value. All tied up in one nice little eight mana package. Shadowreaper Anduin truly deserves the title of most impactful Death Knight hero card thus far.
Whilst the quests from Un’Goro were mostly useless, with only a few of them seeing serious play, the Death Knights seem to be massive hits thus far. These cards allow Blizzard to explore new design space and show that they are not afraid to experiment with their designs. The Death Knights have birthed and revived several competitive or niche decks that are fun to play with; only time will tell how else they can be used alongside the release and rotation of expansions in the future.
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