Hearthstone's Year of the Mammoth kicked off last week with the release of Journey to Un'Goro, and older sets League of Explorers, Blackrock Mountain, and Grand Tournament rotating out of Standard into Wild. As a result, the current metagame has been given a much-needed shakeup, with many new deck archetypes currently seeing play.
Without doubt the most interesting new feature of Journey to Un'Goro is its Quest cards. There's one of these one-cost Legendaries for every class. Each has a specific requirement to meet, whereupon a card is added to your hand, which can be cast to trigger a powerful effect. They're all a lot of fun to play with, but some are more competitively viable at the moment than others. With that in mind, I'm going to run down each of the Quest cards and see just how good they are in the current, albeit very early Year of the Mammoth metagame.
The Caverns Below (Rogue)
Some early Journey to Un'Goro analyses expressed doubts that the Rogue's Quest card was going to see much play, but based on my experiences, they're most certainly wrong. I've come up against plenty of Caverns decks over the last few days, and they can kick some serious ass. Although they're very combo-reliant, they can nevertheless bounce minions quite quickly to meet the Quest requirement, and once that happens – I've seen it occur as soon as turn five – you're is faced with a deck whose army of cheap minions all become 5/5 monsters.
While The Caverns Below can sometimes stall, and is potentially susceptible to AOE clears before it manages to set itself up, it's still a very powerful archetype that when played right can be absolutely devastating. As a result, I think that The Caverns Below is by far the strongest Quest card in the current metagame, and will see plenty of competitive play.
The Marsh Queen (Hunter)
I spent many hours this weekend playing around with a Marsh Queen deck, and while it's entertaining to play, it's not as good as some of the new Face and Midrange Hunter decks that are currently doing the rounds. The problem is that to hit the Quest goal, you need to pack your deck with a range of 1-cost minions. While that can sometimes mean a fast out-of-the-gate army of small minions putting early pressure on the opponent, the deck can be seriously set back by a well-timed AOE board clear, or a couple of large taunt minions.
Still, I'm pretty sure that with a bit more finessing, it's quite possible to put together a consistently performing Marsh Queen deck. I'm just not sure how good it will ultimately be for competitive play when Face and Midrange Hunter provide far more deadly propositions.
Fire Plume's Heart (Warrior)
The Warrior Quest is all about playing Taunt minions, which means it's perfect for midrange and control-style decks. There are a few different versions of Fire Plume currently being played, but most are variants of this deck list, which packs a range of Taunt minions and playfield-clearing spells that can seriously slow down most opposing decks.
Once the Quest is activated, your Hero Power basically becomes a version of Ragnaros the Firelord's powerful end-of-turn effect, doing eight damage to a random character. Few decks can withstand that kind of incoming damage every turn, and will inevitably be worn down for a win.
Unite the Murlocs (Shaman)
Summoning ten Murlocs might sound like a tall order, but with cards like Call in the Finishers delivering no less than four in one fell swoop, the Shaman Quest is surprisingly easy to complete. And with great synergy amongst Murloc cards, it's quite possible to quickly build up a fast and deadly board presence, especially with Gentle Megasaur potentially adapting every one of your active Murlocs.
Like other small minion decks, a critically-timed AOE, or big taunt creatures can make life difficult, but even so, I think this deck is pretty strong. Shaman has a really nice range of powerful cards that can be used to control the board while deploying an army of Murlocs, and even if the worst happens, this deck can bounce back very strongly after Megafin is played.
Although it's not quite a top-of-the-line ladder deck – Jade and Elemental Shaman decks have the edge here – Unite the Murlocs is still very strong and a lot of fun to play, so don't be surprised if you come up against it.
Jungle Giants (Druid)
At first glance, the Druid Quest card looks great, but in practice it's not so good. If you manage to activate it by casting five minions with five or more attack, you earn Barnabus the Stomper, a five-mana, 8/8 creature that reduces the cost of all the minions in your deck to zero. The key thing here is it's the creatures in your deck whose mana cost is reduced – not your hand. So unless you can combo Barnabus with something like a lucky Nourish, you're not going to get a huge value out of it beyond potentially drawing a free minion each turn – and casting a whopping great creature, of course.
Fact of the matter is that decks like Beast Druid, Token Druid, and even Jade Druid perform more effectively than Jungle Giant. Perhaps deck designers will find creative ways to use this card in the future, but for now Jungle Giant seems like a fun deck to play in Standard friendly games, but won't make much of an impact in competitive play.
Open the Waygate (Mage)
Having been on the receiving end of several infinite fireball finishes recently, I can attest that the Mage Quest deck can be a powerful adversary. There are a couple of different variants doing the rounds at the moment: Both basically rely on card advantage and new card discovery to stall the opponent until they can build a winning position by playing key combos over two consecutive turns to smack you down with unlimited fireballs, or several huge creatures such as Molten Giant, Arcane Giant, and Alexstraza.
As with many combo decks, Open the Waygate can sometimes start out slow when you don't draw the right cards to counter your opponent's early threats, but the deck has so much removal that it can often recover through the midgame to finish strongly – making it a very good deck for competitive play. If you don't have Open the Waygate, there are also new Secret and Elemental Mage decks that are very strong if you want to try to climb the ladder.
Awaken the Masters (Priest)
With many strong Deathrattle minions rotating out of Standard and into Wild following the start of the Year of the Mammoth, Awaken the Masters decks don't have a huge number of really clutch minions to choose from. Still, the archetype is not without some merits, and assuming it can recover from an early beatdown thanks to Amara Warden of Hope's back-to-full-heath-and-then-some healing capabilities, it can then bounce back with N'Zoth the Corruptor.
The trouble is that Awaken the Masters can be a little on the slow side to activate, and that makes it vulnerable to aggro and midrange decks, which can overrun it before it really gets going. One gets the feeling that this deck's day is yet to come – perhaps upcoming expansions will pack more interesting and useable Deathrattle minions that will really help bring Awaken the Masters to life.
For now, though, this Quest is best reserved for casual play. Or put it in a Wild Reno Jackson deck and confound your opponent with ludicrous amounts of health.
The Last Kaleidosaur (Paladin)
Buffing minions is a Pally specialty, so The Last Kaleidosaur Quest activation requirement is a perfect fit for this class. However, the reward for completing the Quest is a single – albeit powerful – creature, and that means it's vulnerable to a variety of cards and situations. Despite Galvadon being able to adapt five times, potentially making it stealthed, or immune from being targeted by hero powers and spells, it can still be Devolved, Poisoned, Frozen, or stymied by Taunt minions.
In other words, it's a little inconsistent. Sometimes Galvadon might prove to be a strong finisher, while at other times it might get destroyed by a well-timed Vilespine Slayer, or even Polymorphed if the RNG Gods don't favor you. The other thing is that a deck built around buffing minions just isn't particularly strong in the current environment, and poor draws can result in you ending up with a fairly weak hand of buff cards, with few decent minions to use them with.
Lakkari Sacrifice (Warlock)
This is another Quest card I've been trying to make work, and so far it's been hit-or-miss – and mostly miss if I'm being honest. While there's some great synergy between the Warlock's range of Discard spells and minions, it's still possible to end up losing key cards at just the wrong moment, and having to Life Tap to refill your hand, leaving you vulnerable to any deck that can deliver a decent payload of damage at speed.
Part of the problem is that the Quest reward simply isn't that strong – it's powerful for sure, but by the time you activate it and start cranking out your pair of 3/2 imps every turn, it's usually a little too late for the deck to rally. With new takes on Zoo and Handlock proving far more deadly, I think that Lakkari Sacrifice decks are just a little too inconsistent for serious competitive play.