The Hearthstone meta and Journey to Un’Goro
How will Elementals, Adapt minions and Quests change the competitive Hearthstone meta?
Blizzard have just let loose the first details of Hearthstone's next expansion, Journey to Un'Goro. The 135 new cards are based on the infamous region in World of Warcraft history and are rife with elementals, devilsaurs and all sorts of primordial goop to wade into.
Blizzard has been characteristically coy with releasing card information at the moment, but we do already have a handful of cards to discuss and speculate on.
Combined with the changes in the recent patch, and coinciding with the start of the Year of the Mammoth, there are significant changes in the meta afoot. Will Shaman continue its reign of terror? Are pirates done for? Is this the expansion when control makes a significant comeback? Let's discuss.
We've had a range of elemental creatures in Hearthstone since launch, but only now will they be declared as their own specific minion type alongside the likes of mechs, murlocs and dragons. To go along with the new cards coming in the expansion, a number of existing cards will have this tag added to them, potentially encouraging entirely new deck archetypes built around the elemental beings.
In terms of new cards of this type, the first to be introduced is the new Mage legendary, Pyros. A card inspired by the mythological phoenix, it starts as a two mana 2/2, returns to your hand when it dies as a six mana 6/6, and then returns to your hand once more when it dies as a ten mana 10/10.
Obviously skewed towards the control side of the game, the general consensus from pro players at initial glance, is that Pyros is a decent if entirely unremarkable new card. It's interesting in its design – and the possibly combination with N'Zoth has some value oriented players drooling – but it's a question of whether there will be a viable Mage control deck now that Reno Jackson is about to rotate out of Standard. It doesn't seem a natural fit for a classic deck like Freeze Mage, and as a measly 2/2 in its first form it could easily be punished by stronger opening plays and weapons.
On the other hand, a potential winner with the introduction of the Elemental minion type is the Shaman. Yeah, like it needed any more help. Nevertheless, with Unbound Elemental, Al'Akir the Windlord and Earth Elemental, there are already some strong cards of that type within the class's existing collection, which could be further boosted by other new additions in the expansion.
For now we can only speculate exactly what these new cards will be, so unless Blizzard aim for something drastically different with the new tag, expect more Elemental synergy cards in the upcoming reveals. Perhaps they'll be more viable than some of the totem cards from previous expansions. Either way, there's a good chance we'll be seeing players try out some Elemental Shaman decks following the launch of Journey to Un'Goro.
Adapt is the big new keyword for the Journey to Un'Goro expansion and takes ideas from both the spare part cards from Goblins and Gnomes, and the recently more prevalent 'Discover' mechanic.
When played, cards with this keyword will offer players a choice between three different adaptations from a pool of 10 different options. The adaptations serve as small buffs to the card, and so far we know they'll include options such as +3 attack, +3 health, divine shield, taunt and so on.
The first card shown to feature the new Adapt keyword is the Verdant Longneck, a five mana 5/4 Druid class card. Smart Hearthstone mathematicians and theorycrafters have valued an adaptation to be worth around one mana or just less, so taken at stat value the Verdant Longneck does feel a little underwhelming at first look. A decent adaptation, however, could make all the difference.
It's also important to acknowledge that it's a beast card too, which could see players experiment with Druid Beast decks once again. They've failed to be competitive in the past – and of course one card isn't going to turn that around – but with all sorts of Un'Goro creatures potentially heading to Hearthstone in the expansion, the deck could find some viability.
Also, with Adapt, and the emergence of Discover, there's a definite sense that Blizzard aren't just pushing the game towards more random elements, but also aiming to give more flexibility to players on the fly.
Quite literally fulfilling their purpose, these Adapt cards will allow you to adapt to the situation in front of you, and could potentially turn a game more in your favour. Considering the Verdant Longneck again, a big 5/7 body could be too much trouble for your opponent to remove, or throwing taunt onto it could give you the necessary breathing room to hold off an aggressive push by your opponent. It does all rely on you getting those specific adaptation options, though.
Perhaps the most revolutionary new aspect of the upcoming expansion is the introduction of Quest cards. These one mana cards, which will always start in your opening hand (though you can choose to mulligan them away), require you to fulfill a very specific requirement in order to receive a massive reward.
The example shown so far is the Priest quest, Awaken the Makers, which requires you to summon seven deathrattle minions over the course of a match. Do so and you'll get Amara, Warden of Hope added to your hand.
Undeniably, there's massive strength hidden in Amara in a control heavy deck, especially if it can be worked to fit into an adaptation of N'Zoth Priest so you have more options to summon seven deathrattle minions. With Reno Jackson rotating out (have we mentioned this yet?) there's room for new healing cards to take his place, and Amara fulfils his role – albeit with much harder requirements to reach before you can play her.
In spite of her strength as a reward for completing the quest, many pros agree that in order for Awaken the Makers to become playable, the game will need to slow down drastically. Right now, in an aggro heavy meta dominated by Shaman and Warrior decks that want to beat you before turn six, there's simply not the time to work towards completing it, let alone waste a turn one play doing absolutely nothing. You'll be intentionally starting out from a weaker position in terms of tempo and card advantage in order to secure a vast late game advantage. The question is: will you even make it that far?