It’s Christmas again! For card game players, this holiday comes around multiple times per year. I’m talking, of course, about everybody’s favourite time – SPOILER SEASON!

Knights of the Frozen Throne, Hearthstone’s next expansion was recently announced and it came with five new cards to boot! In the post below I will be reviewing and evaluating cards while my friend Carmen is going to give them a rating based on a new system she has developed, which will be condensed down to a single number. All you have to know in advance is that different card types should not be compared between each other, so if a spell looks like it has a low rating, remember to only put it against other spells.

Carmen says – 13

Spirit Lash: Reviewing the card from my favourite class first, because screw the reveal order. Before I go over the application of Priest’s very own Maelstrom Portal, can we just take the time to appreciate and realise that a 2-mana spell is capable of restoring 14 health? I’ll touch more on that later, because first I want to go over what this card is and what it does. So, obviously, it’s easy to just read the text on the card, see that it says ALL minions and move along. Damaging you own minions is bad, right? Right? Anyone?

No, it’s not. There is the sweet interaction between Northshire Cleric and Circle of Healing that lets you draw more or less your entire deck. Combo Priest is not only a deck, but it’s a strong deck, especially in Wild, where it’s actually one of the best decks currently. We can’t know for sure whether or not it will stay this way, but this is a tool that will fit right in where Pyromancer currently does, replacing it or acting as additional copies. When taking into account the context of Priest, the fact that it also damages friendly minions is looking a lot more like an upside than not. And, obviously, there are the anti-aggro applications. One health is not often found, but there are very key cards in the meta, such as a Pirate opening, which get completely blown away by this. In all aspects this functions like a Maelstrom Portal and gives early interaction to a class that has historically struggled to find it.

On the other side of the coin, this is a great healing card for control priest. Yes, that’s right. The non-combo priest archetype is N’Zoth control, sometimes (especially in Wild) with Reno/Kazakus, sometimes consistent. Personally, I think the Highlander version is stronger and we can say for it with almost complete certainty that it’s not going away in the new meta. Everybody who has played that deck knows what a N’Zoth turn feels like and that especially against slower decks, sometimes boards will clog up. In comes Spirit Lash. On a full board, that’s a heal for 14 and it can screw up the trading math for the opponent. Whether or not the card has a home in that deck is up for grabs, but it can be powerful and especially in an aggressive meta, which most are, this will be a Priest mainstay.

Verdict: Very good, potential staple.

Carmen says – 14

Chillblade Champion: Quite surprisingly, not a bad card. Stat-wise, the card seems bad, since Wolfrider is a neutral charge card with the same attack for 1 less mana. Chillblade Gnome is obviously not trying to rush people down – paying premium for an extra life and lifesteal in a class card doesn’t seem very impressive, but this will hinge on how powerful the lifesteal part is. As it turns out, it’s alright. The biggest reason to say this is that the charge potion allows for interesting plays that can give a lot of life in return to the player in a minion-to-minion combat. It can’t be raced by fast deck’s smaller cards, so they have to always kill it, which means on the turn it’s played it can go face and then act as a soft taunt which will give you even more life when traded into. It’s obviously bad against midrange and control, but the card was clearly designed to be powerful against aggro and that it is. Put in the virtual Taunt keyword in there against the fast decks and suddenly this soup of abilities starts to look a lot like a great card, often netting the player more than one attack wort of life and trading into things where it matters.

I would be honestly surprised if it didn’t see at least some play in Standard in a midrangey paladin who wants to beat aggressive decks. Let’s face it – they are always there, always keeping Reddit’s ridiculous Control Meta daydream locked up in a faraway castle in a faraway land. I doubt the designers would actively push for a control-oriented metagame even with Entomb no longer in Standard, we will obviously have to see, but it’s always safe to bet on aggro and this card is good against it.

Verdict: Technically not a powerful card, can see heavy play in a fast meta.

Carmen says – 12

Shallow Gravedigger: Yes, it’s not a discover effect so it can give you a Tirion in another class. Yes, it’s two deathrattle cards in one card slot for the Quest Priest deck. That’s pretty much everything this card has going for it. Minions with one health and no charge are bad. Very, very bad.

Verdict: Unplayable garbage.

Carmen says – 15

Prince Keleseth: No clue how to judge this card. At first glance, it’s a Reno-type effect but not quite. On another first look, two-cost cards are some of the best in the game and the backbone of pretty much every deck. What sticks out the most to me is Hunter in Standard, who has lots of one- and three-drops and I guess could run this card, except the most powerful card in the early game is Crackling Razormaw and those decks often play Hyena. I’m also not convinced in Wild – is the long-term value it can give stronger than the tempo from the most busted scientist card in the game? I could see it, but it will take some work to make me believe it.

I guess it could be included in Quest Hunter if that ever becomes a thing, but I’m not looking for the prospect of hard-mulliganing for a singleton two-drop in order for my deck to be able to go even with other decks.

Of course, it could be a real problem if it gets going. In the right Standard environment, this can be nuts in the proper aggro deck, especially in something like Rogue which can Shadowstep it. Currently Rogues are doing just fine bouncing minions around and it’s not the hardest thing in the world to assemble a two-piece combo. As long as the rest of the deck is from decent to good without Keleseth, he could turn out to be a really troublesome card – bounced back multiple times he starts to resemble The Crystal Core, though I don’t think it will work with generated cards such as Fire Fly’s tokens.

Verdict: Seems either broken or unplayable.
Also, let’s take a moment to remember Hobart Grapplehammer was played in Pirate Warrior in the early stages and was eventually dropped out. This seems really familiar.

Carmen is confused by this new card type.

Deathstalker Rexxar: Ah, the best for last.The expansion announcement started off with something that’s particularly hard to analyse – the new Hero card. The fourth collectable card type in the game won’t be interacting like normal, so we won’t treat it to the same analysis. It’s value can’t be negated by something like Counterspell, Dirty Rat, etc., so it (and all other hero cards) immediately gain an advantage in my eyes because you are guaranteed, from what we know so far, to be able to play them. Would you want to play this particular one? I kind of doubt it at the moment, because we have never really had a slow Hunter deck. This begs the question, however, despite appearances, does this only go in slow Hunter decks? I won’t go so far as to agree that a 6-mana Consecration is a particularly proactive turn, but it does interact with the board, and if ever you had an “empty” turn to set up such a powerful value generator, AoE seems like the perfect fit. And of course, once you do, you are going to start overwhelming the opponent with card advantage. Getting a (potentially) powerful minion out of thin air for 2 mana is as good as effects get, and some of the theorised combinations do look very powerful.

Combine all that with the Hunter’s natural ability to pressure and aggressive/midrange style, and you have a deck that curves out into increasing card advantage and the ability to maintain pressure long after the class’ lack of card draw has had a chance to kick into effect. That being said, the latter is potentially the biggest detriment to this card – Hunter has virtually no access to card draw and finding this one-of in time can be tricky. Still, combine the amount of games where it will naturally show up in the first fifteen cards of the deck, and the fact that you might want to consider running Tracking for such an effect, and it doesn’t seem all too unlikely.

Verdict: Probably an auto-include in all Hunter decks.

That’s it for the first edition of “Carmen says”. In the future I will reveal more of her methods and how she does her rating. Currently she is using what’s called a “rough” version that’s not particularly granular just yet and some cards might be slightly underrated, but as long as all cards are being treated with the same criteria it’s fair game. It’s very important to make the differentiation between her ratings and mine – they have nothing in common. As a mere human I am easily biased and/or bad at evaluating cards. Carmen, however, gives her rating based on criteria we mere mortals have barely begun to comprehend, so while I write these analyses, it is her ratings you should be looking at, not my opinion on the matter.

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