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I play far too much Hearthstone, Blizzard Entertainment‘s market-leading card game. I play it on the train. I play it in the rain. I play it on the bus. I play it when I’m feeling like a gloomy gus. I will play it anywhere!
But then I think about … those cards. The minions and spells that make me grumble under my breath on the train. That make me hit the “concede” button before we even get to Turn 2. And as I thought about these cards, those that turn my heart colder and blacker than a GOP Congressman’s soul, two themes developed:
- I despise cards that breed uninteractive decks.
- I am a Hearthstone hipster — I enjoy playing cards that lurk in the shadows, but as soon as they find their breakout deck and flood the meta, I fall out of love. I shouldn’t be surprised. Hearthstone director Ben Brode even brought up the hipster aspect in an interview with me earlier this year.
Eleven cards stand out as the most infuriating. Thank the Old Gods that the worst won’t be kicking around much longer.
I’m allergic to horses. When I hear this damn bone pony drop on the board, I break out in hives. This is a 7 mana staple in a number of competitive decks. And it should be! Granting a minion +4 attack and +4 health is a powerful battlecry effect, maybe a bit too powerful. I don’t like seeing too many neutral auto-include cards, and it bothers me that this one feels so powerful. Unless you have a ready removal or a strong board, a Bonemare can decide the game when it slams down on the board. And that wouldn’t bother me … if I didn’t feel like I was seeing it in 4-out-of-5 matches on the ladder.
The neutral dragon from Knights of the Frozen Throne has another strong effect — granting +3 attack to a random minion at the end of your turn. And this, too, has become an almost auto-include in many decks. If you can’t get rid of it, it’s buffing power snowballs so fast that you feel like you’re falling under a dragon-powered avalanche. And sure, some might say that if by Turn 5 or Turn 6 you can’t remove a card, you’re going to lose, anyway. I don’t mind that. Yet Cobalt Scalebane annoys the hell out of me because it feels like a card that fits into any deck because of this power, and like with Bonemare, I’m tired of seeing it in what feels like 80 percent of my matches.
Cobalt Scalebane and Bonemare show, in my opinion, that too many of the neutral cards in Knights of the Frozen Throne are just too unbalanced. Blizzard didn’t make the same mistake in Kobolds & Catacombs, a set with far more reasonable minions.
Ice Block, the Hall of Fame is calling. It’s got a spot for you.
It’s time for Blizzard to move Ice Block out of the Standard set and into Wild, where all the people who like playing Freeze Mage-like strategies go and throw snowballs at one another. Ice Block enables the Mage to stall out a game by surviving lethal damage for one turn (or two if they have a pair of these annoying secrets in their deck). And many of those cards that help bring about the stall also freeze opponents’ minions, breeding the most uninteractive decks in existence: Freeze Mage, where the goal is to stall until you have the right amount of burn spells (those that deliver direct damage) to kill your foe, and Quest Mage, where you — can you guess? — stall until you get the combo pieces you need to pull off the Open the Waygate quest, gain an extra turn, and use a combo of Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Archmage Antonidas to infinite-fireball your way to victory.
These decks are annoying to face, and I’d rather quit than deal with a flurry of Frost Novas and Blizzards (sometimes more than two apiece thanks to cards that grant additional copies).
Screw Ice Block.
Open the Waygate
This might as well be named “The card that gives Mage a deck that’s even more annoying than Freeze Mage.” Quest Mage seeks to do one thing: Stall you until it gets enough of its combo cards to throw infinite fireballs at your face.
You can counter it with an aggressive lineup, hoping to deal enough damage to kill your foe before they start freezing your minions with Frost Novas and Blizzards (and they always have three copies of at least one of these thanks to Primordial Glyph or other cards that give random spells). It’s another boring deck to face, one where you feel like you’re just waiting for your opponent to pull off their fun as they’re quashing yours.
Fire Plume’s Heart
I hate this quest almost as much as I hate the Mage’s Open the Waygate. This is another deck where it feels like you’re playing a match of solitaire.
The quest-seeker players Taunt minions until they achieve their goal, which gives them a mighty hammer that transforms their hero power to a random 8 damage Ragnaros fireball. It’s boring to play against, and the win condition feels like you’re just waiting for someone to let out a giant fart and then enjoy their giant stink. I quit every match against Fire Plume’s Heart because I don’t need to smell some random-ass Taunt Warrior’s stink.
Raza the Chained
I’m conflicted about putting Raza the Chained here. I enjoyed playing Priest decks in which you don’t pay for Anduin’s hero power … until the Priest deathknight appeared, creating a deck that surged ahead of the rest of the meta. Then everyone was playing it, and I got bored with seeing it everywhere.
You were my special card, Raza. Why’d you cheat on me?
I hate this card not because it kills my pirates — I rarely play this tribe (OK, that’s not fair. I liked them when no one else but me and a few others were playing them because they were fun, not overpowered) — but because it drives so many people to include it in their decks. It kills one measly pirate card (and often more than any, Patches, the worst card Blizzard ever printed. We’ll get to that later).
No, I don’t like this card because it serves just one purpose: killing pirates. Otherwise, it’s a River Croc, and we all can find something better than a River Croc to put into our decks.
This 10-cost Druid card suffers from that same OP stink that cloud Bonemare and Cobalt Scalebane. But I don’t like one other aspect of it — it rewards Druid players for playing recklessly and just spamming out their cards, knowing that they’ll not only deal 5 damage, gain 5 armor, and get a 5/5 ghoul on the board, but they’ll also get five more cards in their hand.
You should face trouble when you dump your hand, but doing so knowing you have this sitting around for when you hit 10 mana feels more like a reward for mindless play than it does encouraging smart play. Even its abbreviation, UI, shows it’s a pain.
For nearly four years, Druid’s had two weaknesses: limited big removal spells and ways to deal with boards filled with enemy minions. Spreading Plague is one of the two poxes that Knights of the Frozen Throne brought to address Druid’s two major weaknesses (the other is the card I just grumped about before this one).
With this, the Druid can now counter one of its two principle weaknesses: a big opposing board of minions. Facing five, six, or even a full board of seven cards? No problem! For 6 mana, Spreading Plague summons a 1/5 scarab beetle with Taunt! Take that, big board! It grants an at least one turn stall to the Druid, who’ll likely then throw out an Ultimate Infestation, refill their hand, and play another Spreading Plague on the next turn, just to make you smile.
GamesBeat review editor and fellow Hearthstone enthusiast Mike Minotti told me I had to include a Jade card. Am I tired of facing Jade Druid? Sure, aren’t we all? But it doesn’t make me grumpy.
I run a lot of decks with Sulking Geist (which eats 1-cost spells like Jade Idol) because it’s not just good against Druid but takes out a lot of key cards from the Razakus Priest deck as well. But I’ll be happy when it rotates out, just so it can open up some creative space for people to play decks without Jade in them.
Patches the Pirate
The. Worst. Card. Ever. Made. In. Hearthstone. Tempo Storm owner and Hearthstone pro and personality Andrey “Reynad” Yanyuk pinpoints why Patches is such a bad card in Hearthstone: It’s made the pirate package (Patches with the pirate-buffing Southsea Deckhand) a viable addition to every class, even those that don’t run offensive weapons (Druid, Priest, and Mage).
When Kobolds & Catacombs first hit last week, players felt Corridor Creeper was too strong. But part of this is because Patches is in so many decks, and since he dies quickly (and tends to flourish with decks in which other minions die fast), the Creeper becomes a cheap 5/5 in no time. And it becomes an auto-include in any deck that has Patches in it. But when you see classes running just Patches and Southsea Deckhands and no other Pirates, you know that something is wrong.
Patches has been in charge since he appeared in 2016 with Wrath of the Old Gods. It’s time to fire Patches out of a cannon and into Nerf Land.
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