Today we bid a fond farewell to Reno Jackson and a host of other League of Explorers, Blackrock Mountain, and Grand Tournament cards, as Hearthstone's Year of the Mammoth kicks off with the launch of the latest expansion, Journey to Un'Goro.
The three aforementioned sets, along with a small selection of classic cards including Azure Drake, Sylvanas Windrunner, and Ragnaros the Firelord, are basically being consigned to the Wild format, ushering in a whole new Standard metagame that will hopefully see the rise of a wide range of fresh new decks. Hearthstone's competitive environment has become a little stale of late, and this major shakeup was sorely needed to help rejuvenate the metagame, and give deck designers the opportunity to get creative once again.
The 135-card set introduces a bevy of huge creatures, and two new game mechanics: Adapt, and Quest. The former is a selectable buff that enables you to customize certain minions when you summon them, while the latter is a mechanic atttached to Legendary class cards. These cost one mana, and lay out a specific criterion for you to meet, for example summoning seven one-cost minions (Hunter) or playing four cards with the same name (Rogue). Do so, and you earn a card that has a very powerful effect, such as giving you an extra turn (Mage) or creating a portal that summons two 3/2 imps every turn (Warlock). While I’m not yet sure whether all quest cards will be viable for top-level decks, they're nevertheless a lot of fun to play with. Basically decks have to be built around them, meaning there will be completely new archetypes entering the metagame.
So what are the key Journey to Un'goro cards? That's what I thought I'd look at today, as I highlight the ten cards that players seem to be most excited about:
As someone who enjoys playing Beast Hunter decks, I'm all over this card. It looks especially useful for Quest Hunter decks, which will need to pack a lot of one-cost minions – many of which will be Beasts – to activate The Marsh Queen. This card will enable players to cast several critters while getting a nice return for their efforts.
Journey to Un'Goro introduces an army of Elemental minions into the Standard environment, and most players expect to see a multitude of themed Elemental decks being played. With that in mind, Blazecaller looks like it'll be one of the most popular Elemental minions. Not only is it a nice beefy creature, but its easy-to-activate summoning effect is very powerful – potentially taking out an opponent's minion, or providing a killer finish.
Elise the Trailblazer
I think this card is a lot of fun, and quite possibly a great addition to control decks. Summon Elise the Trailblazer, and a two-cost card is shuffled into your deck that, when played, opens up a fresh pack of Journey to Un'goro cards and automatically adds them to your hand. In other words, you receive five random cards from any class that you can then play. Of course, you don't know what you're going to get, but by any stretch, five additional cards is a great bonus and could create some really interesting opportunities.
Kalimos, Primal Lord
This hulking Legendary is a perfect fit for Elemental-themed decks. Its really useful Battlecry effect enables you to either restore 12 heath to your hero, fill the board with 1/1 minions, deal three damage to all minions, or hit the enemy hero for six damage. Expect to see Kalimos being played a lot.
Although this minion is a little on the weedy side, it comes with an excellent aura that'll enable you to get some extra mileage out of whatever Deathrattle minions you can play before it inevitably gets nuked. Spiritsinger Umbra would be an ideal addition to any Deathrattle-themed deck, but could be particularly deadly when used in a Rogue Jade deck.
Although this minion has a potentially painful side effect, it represents an amazing value for a measly five mana. Whether it's used as a finisher in a fast-spawning aggro deck, or incorporated into a control deck to provide a major threat, this cheap minion should see a lot of play.
The Marsh Queen
Hunters who cast seven one-cost minions while this quest card is active will earn themselves Queen Carnassa, a five-cost 8/8 dinosaur that fills your deck with 15 Raptors. I've already been playing around with this, and it's very easy to consistently complete the quest by turn six or seven, hopefully setting off a rush of Raptors to finish off your opponent.
Fire Plume's Heart
A little tougher to activate than The Marsh Queen, this Warrior quest card is still very powerful. Assuming your army of taunt minions can stave off your opponent long enough for you to activate Fire Plume's Heart's effect, you'll be rewarded with a three-cost 4/2 weapon that turns your hero power into Ragnaros the Firelord – doing a mammoth eight damage to a random character every time you use it.
Like throwing your cards away? That's what this Warlock quest card is all about. With plenty of cards that synergize with the discard mechanic, players should be able to complete this quest reasonably easily. Doing so awards a five-cost portal that sits on the battlefield and summons a pair of 3/2 Imps every turn.
The final card on the list is another quest that's not too difficult to activate. Druids have plenty of ways to summon beefy minions, and should you hit the quest target you'll be awarded Barnabus the Stomper, a five-mana 8/8 minion whose Battlecry reduces the cost of all the minions in your deck to zero.
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